Waste management is a broad but critical part of the dental industry.
From dental amalgam waste, to x-ray waste disposal and more, dentists handle their fair share of different types of waste. These are often hazardous and heavily regulated.
As the complete regulatory solution for the dental community, we at DRNA want to walk you through why all dental practices and similar operations must have and follow a plan for another type of waste: sharps.
Proper waste management helps keep dental practice employees, patients and their communities healthy.
By disposing of sharps the correct way, practices are helping reduce the risk of injury and prevent the spread of certain diseases. This includes transmittable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tetanus, syphilis and more.
If not handled and disposed of correctly, sharps can put many people at risk that you may not consider when it comes to keeping others safe, including janitors, housekeepers and children.
For employers, sharps injuries are a serious problem. The risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens due to needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries is a serious problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Take hospital healthcare settings as a snapshot. In those settings, there are about 385,000 workplace sharps injuries each year. The CDC notes that many similar injuries happen in other health-related settings, too.
Ideally, all sharps would be handled and disposed of in a safe way. However, injuries do happen.
This is why it is important for every dental practice and office to have a plan for how to address potential sharps injuries. This includes an assessment of any current procedures for addressing injuries and how best to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
The CDC recommends several steps for creating a proper plan like this, including creating a culture of safety, how to report injuries, how to analyze data that may be helpful in preventing and handling injuries.
According to the American Dental Association, having a plan can go a long way in preventing any accidents and injuries due to sticks and cuts.
Federal regulations for sharps disposal are one thing, but dentists must be aware of any city or county health regulations that may also apply to their practices.
Finding a waste disposal partner can help ensure that a practice is in compliance with all applicable regulations. So, if keeping on top of those issues seems daunting, do your research to make sure you can find a helpful, trusted partner in this area.
Having a plan for sharps disposal management and sticking to it keeps employees, patients and the broader community safe. That’s why it is key for all practices to have plans in place for disposing of sharps and training employees on how to follow those plans.
These plans need to cover several areas, including identifying and using correct sharps containers, discarding sharps safely, organizing an office space to allow for safe disposal and training employees to help them understand proper disposal.
Identify correct containers for sharps
As a rule of thumb, sharps should never be thrown away in regular trash or recycling. They must go in containers specifically approved for sharps. According to OSHA, these containers must be resistant to punctures, completely closeable, leak-proof, labeled properly, red in color and have an easily seen biohazard symbol somewhere on the container.
There should also be a fill-to line so employees can easily see when a container needs to be sealed up. Openings must also be large enough to easily fit all items inside.
Discard containers when full
Part of disposing these containers correctly is following the label instructions. A full container that’s ready to be disposed of is usually about 2/3 full or filled to the fill line. Once they have reached this point, they need to be disposed of properly through a sharps disposal program.
Organize offices for safer disposal
An office that is well-organized creates a safer environment in many areas, including sharps disposal. This involves placing sharps containers in proper locations so that the office is in compliance with regulations.
Dentists must place sharps containers in any room where procedures that require sharps occur. These containers need to be located in areas that are easily seen and within reach – but not an upward reach. They should not be placed in hidden areas, including under sinks or in cabinets, or in areas of heavy foot traffic.
Finally, all employees need to know how to follow best practices for disposing of sharps. They should be instructed to dispose of used sharps (and other waste) immediately after use and trained on how to handle a full container.
Sharps are just one of the dental care wastes that we are able to address with our partners. As with all of our service areas, simplicity is the goal. This focus saves money on trucking and fueling, doesn’t involve contracts and also simplifies waste management for clients.
With our sharps service, you can choose from several kit sizes from 1.5 quarts to as much as 30 gallons. Each kit, which is mailed back to DRNA, comes with approved packaging materials and prepaid return label, incineration for waste that is not sent to a landfill and a waste manifest with proof of destruction.
For more information, you can contact DRNA at 800-360-1001.
DRNA is proud to be the company that is endorsed by dental associations that represent more than 73,000 dentists across the country. Our company offers the No. 1 cost effective solution for those who must comply with the EPA’s amalgam rule.
In addition to our amalgam waste and recycling services, we offer complete solutions for all waste that is generated by the dental industry, including sharps. Contact DRNA to discuss how we can become your go-to partner for all of your waste and recycling needs.