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Strategies for sharps disposal to safeguard the health of workers and the wider environment are important considerations for any organisation. Anne Harriss and Angela West examine one NHS trust’s approach to contaminated waste clearance.
Occupational health practitioners (OHPs) acknowledge the effect of work on individuals or groups of workers. Those thinking outside the box recognise that the community outside the confines of the workplace might also be affected by poor hazard control.
Enlightened OHPs, as public health practitioners, should also consider the broader environmental impact of their organisation, particularly with regard to possible emissions into the atmosphere (air), to water via accidental spills, disposal through the sewer system, or to land including waste disposal to landfill.
Waste management is an important consideration within each organisation’s environmental management strategy. Strategies to ensure worker health and environmental management should be designed to work hand in glove in order that they both promote a broader public health strategy.
There are environmental effects linked to many work processes in various organisations, from light and heavy industries to healthcare facilities. The NHS produces a significant amount of hazardous waste particularly clinical waste including contaminated sharps.
This article outlines the approach to the disposal of contaminated sharps undertaken by one NHS trust, because a safe, effective approach to clinical waste management in particular is also a public health issue.
Waste management is covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA). As such, inappropriate waste management in any healthcare facility, whether in hospitals or in primary care settings, including health centres, podiatry and dental surgeries or even OH services, could potentially breach both environmental and general health and safety legislation.
Relevant law includes Regulation 9 of the Workplace Health Safety and Welfare Regulations (1992) and Regulation 6 of the Control of Substances Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH). Both sets of legislation relate to waste management and the COSHH Regulations can be applied specifically to exposure to microbial hazards.
Section 34 of the EPA coupled with the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991, which are associated with that Act, impose a duty of care on those keeping, treating or disposing of wa
Angela West BSc (Hons), RGN, NEBOSH, Diploma (OH) is an OH clinical manager. Anne Harris MSc, BEd, RGN, RSCPHN, OHNC, CMIOSH, NTFHEA, PFHEA is associate professor and occupational health nursing course director at London South Bank University.