Occupational Hygiene Posts

TOP 5 HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS FACED BY RECYCLING WORKERS



1: EXPOSURE TO HARMFUL CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL SUBSTANCES


Recycling workers, especially sorters, play a crucial role in the quality of feedstock, ultimately affecting marketplace values and the profits businesses are able to generate from their recyclable commodities. While sorting and processing technologies have come a long way, they cannot replace the dexterity and decision-making capabilities of human beings.


Workers are confronted by many hazards in sorting and processing facilities, such as material recovery facilities (MRFs), on a daily basis. To keep their waste and recycling employees safe and prevent costly accidents and workplace tragedies, recycling facility operators should understand the common risks associated with handling unpredictable waste streams.

  • Used hypodermic needles

  • Sharp objects, such as broken glass, nails, sharp metal, and wood shards

  • Industrial and household chemicals, including motor oil, mercury containing thermometers, solvents, and batteries

  • Dead and rotting animals, such as squirrels, cats, and dogs that climbed into containers looking for food and got stuck

  • Biohazards, such as rotting food waste, used diapers, animal faeces, and disease-causing pathogens

2: MOVING VEHICLES AND IMPROPERLY SECURED MATERIAL BALES


Because materials can weigh in excess of one ton, industrial vehicles, such as forklifts, front-end loaders, and trucks, are needed to transport waste and recyclables, putting workers at risk of being struck or run over. Heavy material bales are also capable of severely injuring or crushing workers if they are improperly stored and secured.


3: MOVING MACHINERY: COMPACTORS, CONVEYOR BELTS, AND SORTING MACHINERY


Most recycling equipment requires cleaning, servicing, adjustments, or some other sort of general maintenance to maintain efficient processing and sorting activities. If proper lockout-tagout procedures aren’t implemented when workers must service or unjam equipment, employees could face amputations or fatal crushing injuries. Lock and tag procedures are a safety measure used to ensure dangerous machines are properly shut off and cannot restart before servicing is complete.


4: RESPIRATORY HAZARDS: DUST AND AIRBORNE CONTAMINANTS


Waste and recyclables workers must often twist, reach, jump, and stoop to sort materials on fast-paced conveyor belts with fixed widths and heights. Because sorters often stand bent forward for hours at a time using recurrent motions, they can suffer from repetitive stress injuries of the back, shoulder, knees, hands, and fingers.


If you own or operate a material recovery facility or run a business recycling programme and would like to mitigate the risks posed to your waste and recycling workers, contact our experts for a free, no-obligation quote at Meridian Environmental Consultants Ltd (MEC) on enquiries@meridianenvironmental.co.uk or telephone +44 (0)1423 549629.

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Meridian Environmental Consultants Ltd (MEC)

Knox House

Harrogate

North Yorkshire

HG1 3DF

01423 549 629

T: +44 (0)1423 549629

E: enquiries@meridianenvironmental.co.uk

Registered in England and Wales

Company Number 12010551

VAT Number GB 326 1569 04

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