January 19, 2022

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Kevin Webber
How to Prepare for a Medical Waste Audit

A medical waste audit provides inspectors with a detailed analysis of whether appropriate medical waste management systems are in place at your medical facility. The audit also ensures compliance with relevant guidelines and can help identify potential opportunities to improve medical waste management and reduce costs.

Medical waste is defined as healthcare waste that can be contaminated with infectious materials. Disposing of regulated medical waste is a complex process, and its sorting, packaging, and storage requirements vary according to the type of waste and its compliance regulations.

Governed and regulated primarily by state environmental and health departments as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a medical waste audit produces data that’s detailed enough to:

  • Assess contamination in waste streams.
  • Characterize and quantify waste streams.
  • Identify waste diversion and source reduction opportunities.
  • Assess the effectiveness of waste management systems and identify ways to improve their efficiency.

Because the consequences of failing a medical waste audit can be severe, it’s essential to develop standard audit operating procedures that include site readiness, rules for handling a physical inspection of your facility, and the appropriate responses to fines and other enforcement actions.

What Happens During and After A Medical Waste Audit

A medical waste audit is an official inspection of your facility performed by independent auditors who make their way through your premises. As they do, they examine, scrutinize, evaluate, and analyze its medical waste. If you’ve been following the proper federal and state guidelines for waste segregation, you can feel relatively confident your facility will be found compliant.

The best way for your medical facility to prepare for a possible medical waste audit is to conduct your own scheduled audits. Due to time and other resource constraints, many facilities choose to work with a third-party auditor who performs “mock audits” so they understand how an actual audit could go, but without the associated fines and penalties for non-compliance.

Once the audit is complete, the auditor(s) will review their preliminary findings and you might agree on several immediate corrective actions and follow-up steps. You’ll also receive a written report that can include time-sensitive informal and formal requirements.

The Medical Waste Audit Process

Medical waste audits are executed in any healthcare facility regardless of its size. Small, medium, and large generators, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, outpatient clinics, and veterinary clinics, are all fair game to an auditor.

Since any facility that produces medical waste can be audited by local, state, or federal government representatives, it’s up to you to ensure your facility is adequately processing and separating medical waste streams such as general, biohazard, infectious, and radioactive medical waste. An auditor will also look for things like:

  • How much medical waste your facility generates.
  • How much of its waste is recyclable.
  • How much is discarded into landfills.

Be Prepared for a Medical Waste Audit

Medical waste documentation that must be kept on file in case of an audit includes a written medical waste management plan, employee training records, and a certificate of destruction and manifest – which are always required and are the responsibility of the waste generator (your facility). The waste manifest identifies, among other things, what medical waste was picked up at your facility, the name of the transporter that carried the waste off-site, and the waste’s final destination.

Together with the waste manifest, a certificate of destruction helps establish a chain of custody and ensures waste has been disposed of properly. It typically contains a detailed description of all items being transported for treatment and disposal, and a legal statement from the waste management company confirming all materials comply with state, federal, and other laws and regulations.

Many facilities find that using a state self-audit checklist helps them be prepared for a medical waste audit. In addition to general questions about written management plans and staff training, these checklists typically contain sections on:

  • Sorting
  • Handling
  • Interim storage
  • Final disposal
  • Incineration
  • Landfills
  • Off-site disposal

Using a checklist during bi-annual self-audits makes certain your facility meets federal regulations and other criteria to ensure compliance.

The word “audit” in any situation is enough to make anyone anxious, but if you work with a trusted waste services partner like TriHaz, you can be confident in knowing your cradle-to-grave regulated waste management program is legal and compliant. Talk to us today to learn more about how we can help you prepare for a medical waste audit.

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