The National Biohazard Waste Industry (BWI) committee, a division of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), has developed guidance to assist health care providers managing COVID-19 affected materials.
According to a WMRR statement, in the wake of the World Health Organisation’s pandemic declaration, stakeholders are considering additional measures to ensure the appropriate management of waste from patients, confirmed or suspected, to be infected with COVID-19.
“Under AS 3816:2018 Management of Clinical and Related Wastes, clinical waste is defined as any waste that has the potential to cause injury, infection, or offence, arising but not limited to medical, dental, podiatry, health care services and so forth,” the statement reads.
“At this time, we are not aware of any evidence that direct, unprotected human contact during the handling of healthcare waste has resulted in the transmission of COVID-19, nor is COVID-19 regarded as a Category A infectious disease.”
BWI understands that the World Health Organisation, and some Australian health officials, have declared that clinical waste from infected patients should be treated as normal clinical waste, “this however, may not be a uniform stance.”
“In light of the dynamic and evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation, along with the growing body of knowledge including the significant range of unknown characteristics, such as survival on surfaces, BWI feels it is prudent to suggest the adoption of additional measures,” the statement reads.
As governments evaluate the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19, BWI is aiming to offer a degree of precaution and assistance to staff who will be responsible for the management of higher than normal, and potentially more hazardous, clinical waste volumes.
“Additionally, it is hoped that these measures will also afford a greater level of protection to healthcare facility staff and waste handlers, both within and external to the facility, responsible for the management of clinical waste,” the statement reads.
Additional measures include:
Health care workers are being urged to implement “double bagging” of waste from COVID-19 confirmed patients. According to the statement, this can be achieved by lining all clinical waste mobile garbage bins (MGBs) with clinical waste bin liners.
“By placing infected waste into a primary clinical waste bag and tying this bag up prior to disposal in the lined MGB – the bag lining the MGB must also be tied up – a significant increase in protection can be achieved,” the statement reads.
“For bins or containers that have been used in isolation rooms or in close proximity to patients confirmed as infected with COVID-19, the exterior surface should be wiped clean in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines prior to collection.”
Discreet notification and identification of any bins carrying infected waste is also suggested, as clearly agreed upon with waste management providers.
“Understandably, there may be a reluctance to overtly label bins containing COVID-19 waste, therefore this could be as simple as the addition of a simple mark or sticker as clearly agreed and documented between the facility and your waste management provider,” the statement reads.
BWI recommends these measures be adopted alongside personal protective equipment and other relevant practices.
“BWI would like to reiterate the importance of all facilities continuing to work and engage with their waste management providers on the recommended additional measures,” the statement reads.