When a medical care provider first opens for business, he or she must establish good medical waste handling and disposal strategies. Whether you are running a doctor’s office, dental practice, clinical lab, or the like, you are responsible for knowing all of the federal, state, and local laws that impose medical waste regulations on your business.These will include specialized staff training, required waste containers, specific labeling procedures, and disposal rules.
In terms of disposal, it is critical to understand the “cradle to grave” responsibility all medical waste generators have. Even if you hire a 3rd party to haul away and dispose of your medical waste, you are still liable for that waste. This comes from the EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, or RCRA. The act was established to address the unsafe disposal of hazardous waste, and its effects on the wider society.
One section of the RCRA specifically outlines the management of hazardous waste, from “cradle to grave.” This means that hazardous waste, which includes medical waste, must be handled and disposed of in a way that protects the public and the environment.
What Can Go Wrong?
Failing to dispose of medical waste properly can result in lawsuits and even malpractice charges. Case in point:
In 2017, a podiatry clinic in Missouri faced $43,456 in fines for the improper disposal of their medical waste. OSHA cited them for 11 violations.
In 2018, Target faced charges by the California District Attorney for the unlawful disposal of medical waste materials, and they were required to pay $3.2 million in fines.
And this wasn’t Target’s first such charge. In 2011 Target settled out of court for $22.5 million on similar charges. In the 2018 case, California Attorney General Havier Becerra said “the wise move for all companies is to abide by the law and employ proactive training and processes to help ensure that hazardous waste violations are avoided.”
In 2018, Sharps MD LLC was issued a Cease and Desist notice by the Florida Department of Health after untreated medical waste was found being stored in trailers parked on a trailer rental lot. This was the second time the waste disposal company was found to have committed such a violation.
6 Things To Look For In Your Contract
Your Medical Waste Service contract should include:
Waste Acceptance Policy
This section should spell out the regulatory compliance that the disposal company follows. This should include collection, transportation, and treatment of the medical waste. Make sure everything in the contract complies with all the federal, state, and local authorities that regulate medical waste in your business.
Scope of Service and Liabilities
The scope of service should outline all the aspects of the service, including what the disposal company is responsible for should an accident occur.
This section of the contract should outline any and all additional fees and taxes that may be charged along with the basic service costs.
The contract length should be clearly defined.
Price Increase Notification Process
Your medical waste disposal service should avoid escalating fees that are not explicitly stated in the original contract. This is often an issue in the medical waste hauler industry.
A recent example of this is with $295 million class action suit against Stericycle in 2017. The class action involved more than 246,000 dentists, veterinarians, and other businesses across the country. Stericycle was found guilty of automatically inflating customers’ bills up to 18% biannually, which was not a part of their customers’ original contract.
You will want to ensure this is clearly defined as well. You may not be satisfied with the service you receive, and thus you may need to make a change. Protect your business by ensuring a fair cancellation policy is included.
Hauling medical waste is a very unpredictable economic model for both the buyer and seller. Hauling vendors are burdened with unpredictable increases in service costs, which get passed along to you.