Safety methods in pharmaceutical industry and waste disposal


Safety work is generalized here to include the prevention of losses and injuries in most situations. Safety work consists in activities and measures that can contribute to reduction in injuries and losses.

Safety Method

1.     The employer has a general duty to provide a healthy and safe workplace

2.     The employer must fix hazards

3.     Threshold limit values are adopted as legal standards in most jurisdictions

4.     Most regulations deal with safety hazards and traditionally hazardous sectors where men dominate the work force

5.     When handling seized chemicals, always utilize proper safety equipment

6.     Never handle chemicals alone ; always have a second person to assist

7.     Read all labels prior to handling or moving chemicals. Note that labels may not always reflect the actual contents either as a result of adulteration or through deliberate mislabeling

8.     Carry out field test to indentify unknown chemicals or determine their chemical characteristics prior to transportation and storage

9.     Handling and transportation of chemicals should only be done by qualified personnel and in compliance with local laws and regulations

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10.Chemicals should not be stored or handled more than is absolutely necessary

11.Chemicals should never be stored in area or building where personnel regular work or eat e.g offices

12.If chemicals must be stored for a long time; they should never be stored in plastic containers. Plastic is not chemically resistant for long term storage.

13.When chemicals must be stored, store them by groups( acids, bases, volatiles, oxidizers etc)

14.Use separate units /container and tools for chemical neutralizations and treatment of different chemicals to avoid incompatibility reaction from chemical residues present from an earlier treatment operation. Clean tools and containers in between these activities to prevent cross contamination.

15.When moving or transporting chemicals :

Ø Package them in the original container, wherever possible

Ø Separate containers to prevent breakage

Ø Segregate by chemical hazard group

Ø Transport must follow dangerous goods legislation

16.Employer duties lead to worker rights to:

Ø Know about the hazards they may face

Ø Refuse work that is dangerous/  unsafe/ unhealthy

Ø Participate in indentifying hazard and recommending solution

Waste disposal

Pharmaceutical wastes are potentially generated through a wide variety of activities in the health care system, including syringes, and are not limited to intravenous (IV) preparation. Generally Pharmaceutical waste may include:

· Expired drugs

 · Patients’ discarded personal medications;

· Waste materials containing excess drugs (syringes, IV bags, tubing, vials, etc.);

 · Waste materials containing chemotherapy drug residues;

 ·Open containers of drugs that cannot be used;

 · Containers that held acute hazardous waste drugs;

· Drugs that are discarded; and

· Contaminated garments, absorbents and spill cleanup material.

Pharmaceutical waste is further classified in 3 categories:-

1. Hazardous waste,

2. Non-hazardous waste,

3. Chemo waste. [5]

Methodology of Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal

1. Incineration: Incineration is an effective method used for disposal of wastes, in which solid organic wastes are subjected to combustion so as to convert them into residue and gaseous products. This method is useful for disposal of residue of both solid waste management and solid residue from waste water management. This process reduces the volumes of solid waste to 20 to 30 percent of the original volume. Incineration and other high temperature waste treatment systems are sometimes described as "thermal treatment". Incinerators convert waste materials into heat, gas, steam and ash. Incineration is carried out both on a small scale by individuals and on a large scale by industry. It is used to dispose of solid, liquid and gaseous waste. [5]

2. Autoclaving: In autoclaving, saturated steam in direct contact with the BMW in a pressure vessel at time lengths and temperatures sufficient to kill the pathogens are used for sterilization. Minimum temperature, pressure, and residence time for autoclaves for safe disinfection are specified in the Biomedical Waste Rules. Before autoclaving, BMWs require shredding to an acceptable size which is an operation that would involve frequent breakdown. Autoclaving produces a waste that can be land filled with municipal waste. [5]

3. Microwaving: Application of an electromagnetic field over the BMW provokes the liquid in the waste to oscillate and heat up, destroying the infectious components by conduction. This technology is effective if the ultraviolet radiation reaches the waste material. Before microwaving, BMWs require shredding to an acceptable size and humidification. [5]

4. Chemical disinfection: Chemical disinfection is most suitable for treating liquid wastes such as blood, urine, stools, or health care facility sewage. Addition of strong oxidants-like chlorine compounds, ammonium salts, aldehydes, or phenol compounds-kills or inactivates pathogens in the BMW. However, microbiological cultures, mutilated sharps, or shredded solids can also be treated by chemical disinfection. [5]

5. Deep burial: The deep burial site should be pre- pared by digging a pit or trench of about 2 meters deep in an area that is not prone to flooding or erosion, and where the soil is relatively impermeable, there are no inhabitants or shallow wells in the vicinity, and the risk to surface water contamination is remote. The pit should be half-filled with the BMW, and then covered with lime within 50 cm of the surface, before filling the rest of the pit with soil. On each occasion when BMW is added to the pit, a layer of 10 cm of soil should be added to cover the waste. [5]

6. Secure land filling: Secure land filling involves disposal of solid BMWs at a landfill designed and operated to receive hazardous wastes. The Biomedical Waste Rules require disposal of discarded medicines, cytotoxic drugs, solid chemical wastes, and incineration ash in secured landfills. Disposing of waste in a landfill involves burying the waste, and this remains a common practice in most countries. A properly designed and well-managed landfill can be a hygienic and relatively inexpensive method of disposing of waste materials [5]

7. Waste immobilization: encapsulation- Encapsulation involves immobilizing the pharmaceuticals in a solid block within a plastic or steel drum. Drums should be cleaned prior to use and should not have contained explosive or hazardous materials previously. They are filled to 75% capacity with solid and semi-solid pharmaceuticals, and the remaining space is filled by pouring in a medium such as cement or cement/lime mixture, plastic foam or bituminous sand. For ease and speed of filling, the drum lids should be cut open and bent back. Care should be taken to avoid cuts to hands when placing pharmaceuticals in the drums. Once the drums are filled to 75% capacity, the mixture of lime, cement and water in the proportions 15:15:5 (by weight) is added and the drum filled to capacity. A larger quantity of water may be required sometimes to attain a satisfactory liquid consistency. Steel drum lids should then be bent back and sealed, ideally by seam or spot welding. The sealed drums should be placed at the base of a landfill and covered with fresh municipal solid waste. For ease of movement, the drums may be placed on pallets which can then be put on a pallet transporter. [5]

8. Waste immobilization: Inertization- Inertization is a variant of encapsulation and involves removing the packaging materials, paper, cardboard and plastic, from the pharmaceuticals. Pills need to be removed from their blister packs. The pharmaceuticals are then ground and a mix of water, cement and lime added to form a homogenous paste. Worker protection in the form of protective clothing and masks is required as there may be a dust hazard. The paste is then transported in the liquid state by concrete mixer truck to a landfill and decanted into the normal urban waste. The paste then sets as a solid mass dispersed within the municipal solid waste. The process is relatively inexpensive and can be carried out with unsophisticated equipment. The main requirements are a grinder or road roller to crush the pharmaceuticals, a concrete mixer, and supplies of cement, lime and water. [5]

9. Sewer: Some liquid pharmaceuticals, e.g. syrups and intravenous (IV) fluids, can be diluted with water and flushed into the sewers in small quantities over a period of time without serious public health or environmental affect. Fast flowing watercourses may likewise be used to flush small quantities of well-diluted liquid pharmaceuticals or antiseptics. The assistance of a hydro geologist or sanitary engineer may be required in situations where sewers are in disrepair or have been war damaged. [5]

Hazardous Waste Management Statergy

10. Waste minimization: An important method of waste management is the prevention of waste material being created, also known as waste reduction. Methods of avoidance include reuse of secondhand products, repairing broken items instead of buying new, designing products to be refillable or reusable (such as cotton instead of plastic shopping bags), encouraging consumers to avoid using disposable products (such as disposable cutlery), removing any food/liquid remains from cans, packaging, and designing products that use less material to achieve the same purpose (for example, light-weighting of beverage cans). [5]

11. Reuse: Re-use means the use of a product on more than one occasion, either for the same purpose or for a different purpose, without the need for reprocessing. [5]

12. Recycling: Recycling involves the treatment or reprocessing of a discarded waste material to make it suitable for subsequent reuse either for its original form or for other purposes. It includes recycling of organic wastes but excludes energy recovery. Recycling benefits the environment by reducing the use of virgin materials. [5]


1.    Drug Abuse By  Healthgrades Editorial Staff



4. THE DRUGS (CONTROL) ORDINANCE, 1982 Ordinance No. VIII of 1982 [Published in the Bangladesh Gazette, Extraordinary, dated the 12th June, 1982.]

5. An overview of waste management in pharmaceutical industry ,Muhammed Jaseem, Pramod Kumar and Remya Mariam


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