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Wednesday, 02 March 2011 16:42

Managing Hazardous Waste Disposal Under ISO 14000

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A formal Environmental Management System (EMS), using the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard 14001 as the performance specification, has been developed and is being implemented in one of the largest teaching health care complexes in Canada. The Health Sciences Centre (HSC) consists of five hospitals and associated clinical and research laboratories, occupying a 32-acre site in central Winnipeg. Of the 32 segregated solid waste streams at the facility, hazardous wastes account for seven. This summary focuses on the hazardous waste disposal aspect of the hospital’s operations.

ISO 14000

The ISO 14000 standards system is a typical continuous improvement model based on a controlled management system. The ISO 14001 standard addresses the environmental management system structure exclusively. To conform with the standard, an organization must have processes in place for:

  • adopting an environmental policy that sets environmental protection as a high priority
  • identifying environmental impacts and setting performance goals
  • identifying and complying with legal requirements
  • assigning environmental accountability and responsibility throughout the organization
  • applying controls to achieve performance goals and legal requirements
  • monitoring and reporting environmental performance; auditing the EMS system
  • conducting management reviews/ identifying opportunities for improvement.

 

The hierarchy for carrying out these processes in the HSC is presented in table 1.

Table 1. HSC EMS documentation hierarchy

EMS level

Purpose

Governance document
Mission/strategic plan

Includes the Board’s expectations on each core performance category and its requirements for corporate competency in each category.

Level 1
Output requirements   

Prescribes the outputs that will be delivered in response to customer and stakeholder (C/S) needs (including government regulatory requirements).

Level 2
Corporate policy

Prescribes the methodologies, systems, processes and resources to be used for achieving C/S requirements; the goals, objectives and performance standards essential for confirming that the C/S requirements have been met (e.g., a schedule of required systems and processes including responsibility centre for each).

Level 3
System descriptions

Prescribes the design of each business system or process that will be operated to achieve the C/S requirements (e.g., criteria and boundaries for system operation; each information collection and data reporting point; position responsible for the system and for each component of the process, etc.).

Level 4
Work instructions

Prescribes detailed task instructions (specific methods and techniques), for each work activity (e.g., describe the task to be done; identify the position responsible for completing the task; state skills required for the task; prescribe education or training methodology to achieve required skills; identify task completion and conformance data, etc.).

Level 5
Records of work and  process compliance

Organizes and records measurable outcome data on the operation of systems, processes and tasks designed to verify completion according to specification. (e.g., measures for system or process compliance; resource allocation and budget compliance; effectiveness, efficiency, quality, risk, ethics, etc.).

Level 6
Performance reports 

Analyses records and processes to establish corporate performance in relation to standards set for each output requirement (Level 1) related to C/S needs (e.g., compliance, quality, effectiveness, risk, utilization, etc.); and financial and staff resources.

 

ISO standards encourage businesses to integrate all environmental considerations into mainstream business decisions and not restrict attention to concerns that are regulated. Since the ISO standards are not technical documents, the function of specifying numerical standards remains the responsibility of governments or independent expert bodies.

Management System Approach

Applying the generic ISO framework in a health care facility requires the adoption of management systems along the lines of those in table 1 , which describes how this has been addressed by the HSC. Each level in the system is supported by appropriate documentation to confirm diligence in the process. While the volume of work is substantial, it is compensated by the resulting performance consistency and by the “expert” information that remains within the corporation when experienced persons leave.

The main objective of the EMS is to establish consistent, controlled and repeatable processes for addressing the environmental aspects of the corporation’s operations. To facilitate management review of the hospital’s performance, an EMS Score Card was conceived based on the ISO 14001 standard. The Score Card closely follows the requirements in the ISO 14001 standard and, with use, will be developed into the hospital’s audit protocol.

Application of the EMS to the Hazardous Waste Process

Facility hazardous waste process

The HSC hazardous waste process currently consists of the following elements:

  • procedure statement assigning responsibilities
  • process description, in both text and flowchart formats
  • Disposal Guide for Hazardous Waste for staff
  • education programme for staff
  • performance tracking system
  • continuous improvement through multidisciplinary team process
  • a process for seeking external partners.

 

The roles and responsibilities of the four main organizational units involved in the hazardous waste process are listed in table 2.

Table 2. Role and responsibilities

Organizational unit

Responsibility

S&DS
Supply and Distribution
Services

Operates the process and is the process owner/leader, and arranges responsible disposal of waste.

UD–User Departments
the source of waste materials

Identifies waste, selects packaging, initiates disposal activities.

DOEM
Department of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine

Provides specialist technical support in identifying risks and protective measures associated with materials used by HSC and identifies improvement opportunities.

EPE
Environmental Protection
Engineer

Provides specialist support in process performance monitoring and reporting, identifies emerging regulatory trends and compliance requirements, and identifies improvement opportunities.

ALL–All participants

Shares responsibility for process development activities.

 Process description

The initial step in preparing a process description is to identify the inputs (see table 3 ).

Table 3. Process inputs

Organizational unit

Examples of process inputs and supporting inputs

S&DS (S&DS)

Maintain stock of Hazardous Waste Disposal Requisition forms and labels
— order requisition forms and labels.

S&DS (UD, DOEM, EPE) (S&DS)

Maintain supply of packaging containers in warehouse for UDs
— determine appropriate packaging for each waste class
— build adequate stock of containers for requisitioning by UD.

DOEM

Produce SYMBAS Classification Decision Chart.

EPE

Produce the list of materials for which HSC is registered as a waste generator with regulatory department.

S&DS

Produce a database of SYMBAS classifications, packaging requirements, TDG classifications, and tracking information for each material disposed by HSC.

The next process component is the list of specific activities required for proper disposal of waste (see table 4 ).

Table 4. List of activities

Unit

Examples of activities required

UD

Order Hazardous Waste Disposal Requisition, label and packaging from S&DS as per standard stock ordering procedure.

S&DS     

Deliver Requisition, label and packaging to UD.

UD

Determine whether a waste material is hazardous (check MSDS, DOEM, and such considerations as dilution, mixture with other chemicals, etc.).

UD

Assign the Classification to the waste material using SYMBAS Chemical Decision Chart and WHMIS information. Classification can be checked with the S&DS Data Base for materials previously disposed by HSC. Call first S&DS and second DOEM for assistance if required.

UD

Determine appropriate packaging requirements from WHMIS information using professional judgement or from S&DS Data Base of materials previously disposed by HSC. Call first S&DS and second DOEM for assistance if required.

 

Communication

To support the process description, the hospital produced a Disposal Guide for Hazardous Waste to assist staff in the proper disposal of hazardous waste materials. The guide contains information on the specific steps to follow in identifying hazardous waste and preparing it for disposal. Supplemental information is also provided on legislation, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) and key contacts for assistance.

A database was developed to track all relevant information pertaining to each hazardous waste event from originating source to final disposal. In addition to waste data, information is also collected on the performance of the process (e.g., source and frequency of phone calls for assistance to identify areas which may require further training; source, type, quantity and frequency of disposal requests from each user department; consumption of containers and packaging). Any deviations from the process are recorded on the corporate incident reporting form. Results from performance monitoring are reported to the executive and the board of directors. To support effective implementation of the process, a staff education programme was developed to elaborate on the information in the guide. Each of the core participants in the process carries specific responsibilities on staff education.

Continuous Improvement

To explore continuous improvement opportunities, the HSC established a multidisciplinary Waste Process Improvement Team. The Team’s mandate is to address all issues pertaining to waste management. Further to encourage continuous improvement, the hazardous waste process includes specific triggers to initiate process revisions. Typical improvement ideas generated to date include:

  • prepare list of high hazard materials to be tracked from time of procurement
  • develop material “shelf life” information, where appropriate, for inclusion in the materials classification database
  • review shelving for physical integrity
  • purchase spill containing trays
  • examine potential for spills entering sewer system
  • determine whether present storage rooms are adequate for anticipated waste volume
  • produce a procedure for disposing of old, incorrectly identified materials.

 

The ISO standards require regulatory issues to be addressed and state that business processes must be in place for this purpose. Under the ISO standards, the existence of corporate commitments, performance measuring and documentation provide a more visible and more convenient trail for regulators to check for compliance. It is conceivable that the opportunity for consistency provided by the ISO documents could automate reporting of key environmental performance factors to government authorities.

 

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