23.5  Prevention and control of risks to healthcare workers

All healthcare workers, including the waste handlers and maintenance workers, should be instructed to use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves while working in contaminated areas and with contaminated materials, and to wash their hands thoroughly after removing the gloves. The workers should be aware of the fact that other people may not have followed the correct procedures while disposing of gloves, blades or needles; therefore, they need to be careful when handling all healthcare waste bags and containers.

People working in healthcare facilities may get accidental injuries because they are in a hurry to help their patients, or in an emergency, or simply due to ignorance or not being able to practise what they know. The following guidelines should be followed for the prevention and control of risks to healthcare workers:

  • Keep desks and countertops free from sharps.
  • Discard needles and other sharps into safety boxes, never into waste bins or plastic bags.
  • Never try to recap needles (i.e. use once and dispose of immediately).
  • Regularly review the rules for safe disposal and collection of sharps or other hazardous materials.
  • You (or any healthcare worker) should always examine and handle soiled linens and similar items as if they were hazardous.
  • Workers should receive periodic instruction at least once a year to keep them aware of the specific hazards of healthcare waste.
  • Workers should take appropriate measures to limit further contagion from waste by practising universal precautions of self-protection from exposure to infectious wastes.

23.4.5  Anatomical waste and placentas

23.6  Planning and monitoring healthcare waste management