As a business owner, you may be aware of your obligations to provide a sanitary and hygienic washroom environment for your employees. But do you know just how deep your obligations really go? Beyond making soap and hand dryers available in restrooms, there are also legal requirements when it comes to disposing of sanitary waste.

Providing feminine hygiene units (FHU) in each cubicle is not just essential to ensure a dignified washroom experience for female employees, it’s also necessary to separate this waste from the general waste stream so it can be disposed of safely. Why? Sanitary waste is considered Healthcare Risk Waste (HCRW) because it may contain remnants of bodily fluids and infectious pathogens (such as HIV and Hepatitis B) that could lead to serious health and environmental risks if not management properly, from collection to treatment and final disposal.

How should sanitary waste be disposed?

In South Africa, sanitary waste disposal is regulated and governed by the following key legislations:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993
  • The National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 59 of 2008
  • The National Regulations on Healthcare Risk Waste (NEMWA Act, 59 of 2008)
According to Healthcare Risk Waste regulations, a generator of commercial or industrial volumes of sanitary waste must:

  • Provide designated areas for the segregation of healthcare risk waste from other waste streams at the point of generation.
  • Demonstrate the safe management of health care risk waste generated through on-site treatment records or written agreement with a waste contractor licensed in terms of the Act to treat healthcare risk waste.
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In addition to the proper segregation, packaging, labelling and storage, it is the duty of the licensed waste disposal contractor to ensure that sanitary waste is autoclaved and then shredded or pre-treated before being disposed at a hazardous landfill site.

The risk of non-compliance

You may think that once sanitary waste leaves your premises, it’s out of your hands. That’s where you’d be wrong. If sanitary waste is found to be disposed of unlawfully, both the waste service provider and the generator of the waste (that’s you) could be held liable for the unsafe management of the waste, of which the consequences are potentially severe.

For this reason, it is vitally important to ask your service provider how they dispose of sanitary waste and whether they are certified to do so.

Concerned about compliance? Download our Guide for Selecting Optimal Hygiene Solutions for Your Business