Don’t let PPE become part of another problemNews
Posted by: The Probe 8th September 2020
PPE has been in the national and professional headlines a lot of late. The sudden and significant need for such items in many areas of everyday life has amplified demand by individuals, groups and businesses alike. However, as we all do our part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect those around us, especially while at work, we face a new challenge – how do we dispose of all this single-use PPE in a safe and responsible way?
Why is it an issue?
Recommendations and regulations have, of course, changed frequently in recent months as the Government and various professional bodies have attempted to keep pace with the developing situation and the science available. As of 24th July, face coverings became mandatory in all supermarkets and shops in England – including takeaway food and drink shops – for the over 11s.[i] [ii] [iii] While face coverings are not classified as PPE (they are not necessarily face masks), the single-use items still need to go somewhere after use.
At time of writing, face coverings were not mandatory within workplaces like offices, though most other enclosed spaces have been included in the regulations. However, employers in all industries retain a responsibility to protect their staff and customers/visitors in any way possible. Dental practice principals must therefore continue to assess the risks in their clinics and implement protocols or PPE as appropriate, aiming to reduce the opportunity for cross contamination and, thus, prevent the potential spread of infection.[iv] [v] Additional recommendations regarding the PPE required for AGPs, for example, requiring various items such as respirator masks and eye protection, must also be adhered to.
What is the problem?
Whether at work or out in public, one question remains – where do we put used PPE and how do we responsibly manage this waste? This could include everything from single-use face masks and gloves to aprons, gowns and disposable eye protection. No matter where it is generated or what it is, all used PPE has the potential to be contaminated. If not carefully discarded, it could pose a threat to anyone who later comes into contact with the waste, such as colleagues, patients/visitors or the local community.
In addition to safety concerns over PPE disposal, we also need to consider the environmental impact. There have already been reports of waste PPE washing up on beaches around the UK and adding to the pollution in our oceans.[vi] We have previously acknowledged the growing challenge of managing our global plastic waste – if used PPE starts adding to the problem, we could have a very difficult situation to rectify.
How do we solve it?
So, what can we do to mitigate the risks and problems surrounding waste PPE? First, it’s important to know that this waste cannot be discarded into standard recycling bins. Secondly, dental practices– like all healthcare providers – must still adhere to the HTM 07 01 Safe Management of Healthcare Waste guidelines. In addition, the Department of Health’s best practice colour-coding for clinical waste segregation and disposal has not been replaced either. As such, all potentially infectious waste (like single-use PPE employed during treatment provision) should go into orange bags and rigid container bins as normal.
To further encourage safe and responsible disposal of PPE waste in other areas of your practice, consider an additional, dedicated PPE waste disposal area/container in your reception or waiting room for patients to discard their used PPE. Initial Medical – experts in healthcare waste management – offer a full range waste of products, services and support to help dental practices optimise their waste management. We can help you to create used PPE disposal areas with our specifically designed 60L capacity bags and SilverSafe, pedal-operated clinical bins. They are colour-coded orange to meet all legal recommendations and best practice protocols for the safe, effective and ethical disposal of potentially infectious waste. Plus, we offer a secure wheelie bin to provide a lockable and fully-compliant storage option for full bags. We will then collect the waste at suitable intervals and ensure its safe disposal.
Eliminating the problem together
Once we understand why there’s an issue, what it is and how we can solve it, it’s important that we work together to protect each other and the environment. PPE has become an essential aspect of everyday life, but we need to dispose of it safely and responsibly to stop it from becoming part of yet another problem.
For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or Tel: 0870 850 4045.
Author: Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003. She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.
About Initial Medical
Initial Medical is an expert in healthcare waste management, providing a complete collection, disposal and recycling service for hazardous and non-hazardous waste and offensive waste produced by healthcare providers, and other businesses and organisations within the UK.
The safe management of healthcare waste is vital to ensure your activities are not a risk to human health. Initial Medical’s healthcare waste services ensure that all of your waste is stringently handled in compliance with legislation and in accordance with Safe Management of Healthcare Waste best practice guidelines, providing you with the peace of mind that you are adhering to current legislation.
For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or Tel: 0870 850 4045
For more information, please contact:
[i] Gov.uk. Staying safe outside your home. Guidance. 24 June 2020. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-safe-outside-your-home/staying-safe-outside-your-home#face-coverings [Accessed July 2020]
[ii] London.gov. Mayor of London. https://www.london.gov.uk/coronavirus/face-covering-guidance?cid=email_FINAL_TFLU092_Face_Covering_Update-https%3A%2F%2Fwww.london.gov.uk%2Fcoronavirus%2Fface-covering-guidance [Accessed July 2020]
[iii] Gov.uk. Face coverings to be mandatory in shops and supermarkets from 24 July. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/face-coverings-to-be-mandatory-in-shops-and-supermarkets-from-24-july[Accessed July 2020]
[iv] Health and Safety Executive. PPE in non-healthcare work during coronavirus outbreak. https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/ppe-face-masks/non-healthcare/index.htm [Accessed July 2020]
[v] Gov.uk. Health and safety at work. Work and financial support during coronavirus. 10 July 2020. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19 [Accessed July 2020]
[vi] Euronews.com. Surge in marine plastic waste as people discard PPE used to ward of Covid-19. 1st July 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/06/25/surge-in-marine-plastic-waste-as-people-discard-ppe-used-to-ward-off-covid-19 [Accessed July 2020]
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