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Evaluation of occupational exposures at medical waste treatment facilities.

Jensen-PA; Leese-K; Uhorchak-E; Hodson-L; Owen-M; Cole-E
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 9-15, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1998 May; :32-33
This year more than 800,000 tons of medical waste will be processed in the United States prior to its ultimate disposal. Waste processing will be carried out at various off-site commercial treatment facilities, or on-site at health care facilities, laboratories, or industrial operations where the waste is generated. As the waste is transported, unloaded, treated, and disposed of, workers can be exposed to a variety of potentially hazardous medical waste components and treatment residues, to include biological and nonbiological aerosols, toxic chemicals, radioactive materials, and infectious agents including blood splatter. They may also be at risk regarding a number of safety-related concerns including injuries, noise, nonionizing radiation exposure, and ergonomics. The second phase of this study evaluated the effectiveness of engineering controls in protecting the worker from bioaerosols, chemical vapors, and blood splatter/splash in medical waste treatment facilities. Three treatment technologies were evaluated: steam autoclave, microwave, and mechanical-chemical. The studies consisted of personal monitoring (or VOCs identified in the first study, air quality monitoring (temperature, relative humidity, CO, CO2), monitoring for general respirable aerosols, personal monitoring for blood splatter, and emission point monitoring for microbial aerosols. The data show that the highest risk is due to blood splatter during the dumping of medical waste into larger containers. Splatter was observed on various surfaces, including the workers' PPE and clothing. Ergonomic hazards included lifting, twisting, pulling, pushing, and movement of boxes and reusable containers was the norm. With the exception of posted. noisy areas, a loose microwave generator, and a few mechanical problems, all other testing/evaluation results were within normal limits or not detected. Recommendations to minimize or eliminate these hazards were made to the three facilities.
Hazardous-materials; Waste-disposal; Waste-treatment; Sanitation; Health-hazards; Exposure-assessment; Engineering-controls; Volatiles; Organic-compounds; Aerosols; Aerosol-particles; Monitors; Monitoring-systems; Medical-facilities; Ergonomics; Noise-sources; Manual-lifting; Manual-materials-handling; Materials-transport; Air-quality-monitoring; Microorganisms; Microwave-radiation; Bloodborne-pathogens
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 9-15, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division