If your business generates medical waste in California, there are many regulations you need to comply with. From the collection of the waste, storage, treatment, and final disposal, your business has “cradle-to-grave” responsibility for processing your medical waste safely and legally through all of these stages. (For a full list of California counties and any applicable local regulations, see below.)
Primarily medical waste is regulated at the state level, however there are some federal and local county regulations that may apply. Failure to be compliant can cost you thousands of dollars in fines and/or litigation and even threaten your business license.
California’s Medical Waste Act governs medical waste disposal.
The state has a searchable PDF version of the Act as viewed here. Highlights relevant to most doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and similar facilities that generate medical waste are as follows:
Medical Waste Definitions (Chapter 2)
- Terms specific to the Act, to include what constitutes medical waste, what medical waste generators mean, and more in this section of the Act
Powers and Duties (Chapter 3)
- This section outlines the jurisdiction over medical waste generators and haulers
Small Quantity Generator Requirements (Chapter 4)
- Specific registration, fees, inspections, storage concerns, onsite treatment rules, and Medical Waste Management Plan requirements for Small Quantity Generators (SQGs)
Large Quantity Generator Requirements (Chapter 5)
- Specific registration, fees, inspections, storage concerns, onsite treatment rules, and Medical Waste Management Plan requirements for Large Quantity Generators (LQGs)
Medical Waste Hauler Requirements (Chapter 6)
- Outlines registration, permits, and tracking records for medical waste haulers
Treatment Information (Chapter 8)
- Outlines treatment methods, sharps waste, Emergency Action Plan requirements, and associated fees for those treating medical waste
Containment and Storage (Chapter 9)
- Outlines segregation, containment, storage, and container management
Enforcement (Chapter 10)
- Outlines injunctions, administrative penalties, inspections, and criminal penalties
Penalties (Chapter 11)
- Specifies Grounds for Suspension or Revocation, proceedings, and temporary permit suspensions
The California Department of Public Health’s website also has helpful guidance on medical waste regulations in the state here.
Two things to keep in mind that are often overlooked by medical waste generators:
- As a medical waste generator, you are required to create, maintain, and update regularly a Medical Waste Management Plan. California’s health department has a helpful checklist for this task here.
- Ensure proper segregation of your medical waste from regular trash. The failure to do so can be costly to your business as medical waste haulers often charge by weight. In fact, one of the health department’s FAQs specifically warns that some haulers encourage that incorrect waste is placed in waste containers. (For helpful tips on this, please see our blog Medical Waste: Is It Waste or Just Trash)
Beyond California’s requirements, on the federal level both OSHA and the Department of Transport (DOT) have some regulations to be aware of as well. OSHA primarily dictates how to keep employees safe in handling medical waste and the DOT regulates the transportation of medical waste.
Once you have established the federal and California specific regulations you must follow, do not forget to check with your local authorities. Often local rules overlap with state and federal rules, but it is important to double check for any county specific regulations to help ensure compliance.
For information on medical waste treatment and disposal you can do onsite at your office or facility as approved by the state of California, please see below.