Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Dealing with Medical Waste

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Dealing with Medical Waste

Article excerpt

On-the-job exposure to disease from medical waste is a risk faced not just by medical support workers but by janitorial staff in medical office buildings.

To prevent transmission of viruses such as hepatitis-B and the virus that causes AIDS, the law requires that offices that generate medical waste must arrange for disposal by a firm that specializes in biohazardous medical waste. Unless the lease stipulates to the contrary, the management of medical office buildings is not responsible for disposal.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all blood and body fluids should be considered infectious, and all precautions should be taken to avoid direct contact with them. The biohazard label must appear on containers of used needles, syringes, and dressings as well as blood and body fluids.

Labels must be fluorescent orange or orange red, and employers must provide protective gloves and other clothing to employees who might come in contact with medical waste, along with training to help them protect themselves. Employers must replace hand protection whenever necessary and must offer vaccination against hepatitis-B to all employees who may come in contact with medical waste.

While tenants are responsible for disposal of medical waste, there is always a chance it could get into the doctor's regular waste by mistake. "There's also the possibility that an outsider could dump infected waste into a refuse can in a building's restrooms, such as a used syringe discarded by an IV-drug user," says Robert Krall, branch manager of Crawford & Company Risk Control Services/The FPE Group in Schaumburg, Ill., just outside Chicago.

"Housekeeping workers have to be careful not to dig their hands down inside a waste container because they don't know what they might encounter. Property managers and building owners are responsible for helping maintenance personnel protect themselves against this kind of thing. …

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