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Archive Infection Control 2019

How Should You Manage Fluid Waste?

You have several options to choose from, but only a few ways to do it safely.

Vangie Dennis

Vangie Dennis, RN, CNOR, CMLSO


Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
SPLASH DOWN Fluid waste is a nuisance to manage, but it poses a much greater threat than inconvenience.

There's more than one way to keep OR floors dry when fluid runoff starts to flow. You can sop it up, solidify it or send it directly to the drain. Efficiencies and cost-savings are important factors when you're considering which method is best, but be sure the option you choose also minimizes staff exposure to the potentially infectious fluid.

1. Manual disposal

Pouring fluid waste down the hopper is a low-cost solution if the practice is permitted by local laws that regulate the disposal of medical waste in your community. Exposure risks with this method are significant, however. Fluid can splash on the hopper, on the staff member doing the pouring, and on the walls and floors surrounding the sink. That's why you must insist that the staff member who's doing the pouring always wears proper protective equipment: gown, gloves, mask and eyewear.

You also need to be aware of an unseen risk associated with pouring: It creates a plume of aerosolized fluids that staff (the pourer as well as those nearby) can inhale and can also coat equipment and other solid surfaces.

The risks don't end after the contents of the suction canister are poured and flushed. For example, if you don't tightly cap empty reusable or disposable canisters, or if the canisters are cracked, residual fluids can leak out and increase exposure risks for unsuspecting reprocessing and environmental services personnel.

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