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Alaska medical waste regulations are managed by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (AKDEC).  Medical waste regulations are outlined in Alaska Administrative Code (18 AAC 60.030) as part of more encompassing regulations involving solid wastes.  Within this code, medical waste is defined similarly to other jurisdictions as any material that is potentially pathogenic which includes the following types of materials:

  • Blood and other bodily fluids;
  • Blood soaked bandages and/or compresses;
  • Tissues, such as organs or biopsy samples;
  • Used and unused hypodermic needles;
  • Tattoo and body piercing needles;
  • Home kidney dialysis filter, bags, and equipment;
  • Lancets and/or other materials used for blood sampling;
  • Contaminated gloves or other personal protective equipment (PPE); and
  • Culture materials and swabs.

These regulations require individuals involved with these wastes to manage them in a manner which prevents the spread of disease.  The regulations also provide the authority for any permitted municipal solid waste landfill or industrial solid waste monofill to accept treated medical waste (medical wastes that are no longer potentially infectious materials) so long as it has been treated according to the manufacturer’s instructions:

  1. in an autoclave,
  2. by a decontamination process other than an autoclave,
  3. or in a medical waste incinerator

The receivers of treated medical waste at permitted facilities have set policies which outline more specific activities that must be followed in order for these materials to ultimately be accepted by these landfills.  The municipality of Anchorage’s Department of Solid Waste has established its own medical waste disposal policy which outlines their requirements for any treated medical waste ultimately delivered to their facility for disposal.

This policy applies to any private or public medical, dental or veterinary clinic, office, laboratory, hospital or other facility or service within the Municipality of Anchorage which generates, collects, or processes medical waste with the intent of disposing the waste at the Anchorage Regional Landfill.  The purpose of the policy is to:

protect workers, the public, and the environment from exposure to pathogens which could cause diseases. The policy applies to any private or public medical, dental or veterinary clinic, office, facility, laboratory, hospital, or service within the Municipality of Anchorage that generates, collects, or processes medical waste with the intent of disposing the waste at the Anchorage Regional Landfill.

In addition to the Anchorage Municipality, the AKDEC also offers guidance for the proper management of medical waste.  As part of previously published material, the AKDEC provides the following recommendations regarding medical waste disposal and selecting a service provider for effective treatment:

  • Reduce the amount of biohazardous waste in the workplace by carefully segregating wastes. Check biohazardous waste container placement. Be sure containers are not located in places where they are likely to be filled with non-infectious or non-biohazardous wastes.

  • Minimize pharmaceutical waste by only accepting quantities of medication samples from drug representatives that will be consumed.

  • When purchasing waste disposal services seek companies that offer alternatives to incineration whenever possible and appropriate.

  • Find out where the biohazardous waste (red bags and needle boxes) are being disposed. Are they being incinerated or autoclaved?

  • Avoid incineration except for wastes which can only be treated by that technology.

Alaska is also one of 21 states that has an approved occupational safety and health program, which is operated by the Alaska Occupational Safety and Health Division (AKOSH) under the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This program covers aspects of medical waste, including the management of sharps, requirements for containers that hold or store medical waste, labeling of medical waste bags/containers, and employee training.  Among other objectives, these standards are designed to protect healthcare workers from the risk of exposure to blood borne pathogens (BBP).  The two main offices of AKOSH are located in Anchorage and Juneau and, with the exception of maritime and federal operations, AKOSH maintains workforce safety oversight statewide.

A brief summary of the Alaska State Plan, documentation of AKOSH’s role in Alaska, is included in the Code of Federal Regulations at 29 CFR 1952.12.  While AKOSH does manage workforce safety statewide, federal OSHA retains the authority to promulgate, modify, or revoke occupational safety and health standards under Section 6 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In the event that federal OSHA resumes enforcement, federal standards will be enforced. Federal OSHA also retains the authority to monitor the Alaska’s State Plan under Section 18(f) of this legislation.

As part of the Alaska State Plan, AKOSH has adopted all federal OSHA standards and incorporates them by reference. Specifically, the department has adopted the following standards with have some relation to medical waste:

  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Toxic Substances
  • Blood borne Pathogens and Other Infectious Diseases
  • Hazard Communication

For medical waste generators operating within Alaska, it is important to understand how these regulations apply to your practice along with the role your service provider plays in keeping your operation compliant.

Contact Entech today or visit our medical waste regulations page if we can help answer any questions you may have about Alaska’s medical waste regulations and how they apply to your practice.

PPE Gloves

Most all health care practitioners are aware of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) role in promoting workplace safety through its Bloodborne Pathogen Standard.  This standard, established in 1991, is detailed in 29 CFR 1910.1030 and contains the specific guidelines which outline compliance requirements for any business where some potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens may exist.

Specifically, OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard has been designed to provided a level of protection for all employees who have a reasonable probability of some level of contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials through their job duties.  The Standard is comprehensive and requires employers to:

  • Provide a safe and healthy work environment
  • Establish an exposure control plan and update the plan annually
  • Implement the use of universal precautions
  • Identify and use engineering controls
  • Identify and ensure the use of workplace controls
  • Provide Personal Protective Equipment including gloves, gowns, eye protection, etc.
  • Make hepatitis vaccinations available to all employees with potential for exposure
  • Provide post-exposure evaluations and follow-up evaluations as incidents are incurred
  • Use labels and signs to communicate specific hazards
  • Provide information and training for staff
  • Maintain employee training and medical records

While most understand the requirements for annual training that must be completed by all employees with potential exposure, this same standard also communicates requirements for the organization to maintain a specific Exposure Control Plan.  OSHA defines requirements for this plan, but at a very high level:

  • It must be written specifically for your facility
  • It must be reviewed and updated at least yearly (to reflect changes such as new employees positions or technology used to reduce exposures to blood or body fluids)
  • It must be be readily available to all workers

This document is also to be separate (or a component of) a larger safety plan for the facility, but must meet these requirements among numerous others which define specific content. Failure for a facility with any level of potential exposure to blood borne pathogens to be able to produce a complete Exposure Control Plan will subject the office to costly fines (up to $12,600) if your are ever audited.

OSHA makes their requirements for Exposure Control Plans readily accessible and even offers examples that can be utilized as templates here.

In addition to Exposure Control Plans, OSHA also requires that facilities maintain a complaint and regularly updated Communication Hazard Program which is outlined in separate statute (29 CFR 1910.1200).  The Communication Hazard Program documents how hazards will be identified and communicated among your staff.  As is the case with the Exposure Control Plan, failure to maintain this information at your practice could result in fines if your facility is ever inspected by OSHA.

While practitioners have the ability to scour the internet to piece together these required documents, Entech makes it easy for our customers to maintain all required OSHA training and safety plans.  We make this resource available through our compliance training platform which, in addition to OSHA specific requirements, offers all required DOT and HIPAA training that is mandated through statue for companies and individuals that have some level of involvement with medical waste.

Entech is the only service provider in Alaska to offer such a resource and, as a service to our customers, we make this system available to free of charge.  More information about our compliance solutions can be found here or linked through through the thumbnails below.