Clinical Waste

As part of a general safety policy required under S 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, all organisations should have clearly defined strategies for the segregation, storage, transport and disposal of clinical waste. Clinical waste is defined as controlled waste, so the provisions of the EPA 90 including the Duty of Care apply.

Definition of clinical waste

  1. Any waste consisting wholly or partly of human or animal tissue, blood or other body fluids, excretions, drugs or other pharmaceutical products, swabs or dressings, or syringes, needles or other sharp instruments, being waste which unless rendered safe may prove hazardous to any person coming into contact with it; and
  2. Any waste arising from medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, pharmaceutical or similar practices, investigation, treatment, care, teaching or research, or the collection of blood for transfusion, being waste which may cause infection to any person coming into contact with it.

In addition some clinical waste, by virtue of its properties, is classified as special waste and is therefore subject to the Hazardous Waste (England & Wales) Regulations 2005 and the Special Waste Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

The packaging and storage of clinical waste is particularly important. Sharps (spent needles, etc.) must be put into secure rigid containers. Other clinical waste should be placed into yellow plastic clinical waste bags. All clinical waste should be stored in a secure, locked container.

Clinical waste must be disposed of at a facility licensed to take clinical waste. In the majority of cases this will mean disposal by incineration although some clinical wastes can be successfully sterilised at specially designed facilities.

Documentation for disposal must comply with controlled waste and hazardous/special waste requirements if appropriate as outlined in previous sections.