Necessary Measures

A JULY 2003 REPORT recently issued by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Washington, D.C., warned that “workers loading, operating or working near refuse compacting or baling equipment are at risk of serious injury or death.” According to the agency's report, “Preventing Deaths and Injuries While Compacting or Baling Refuse Material,” 34 compactor-related fatalities occurred between 1992 and 2000. In all cases, the victims were caught in or crushed by the compacting ram.

To prevent injuries, the NIOSH recommends the following tips for employers:

  • Establish procedures for periodic inspection and maintenance of the equipment.

  • Train workers to recognize compactor and baler hazards.

  • Implement standard procedures for safely dealing with material jams.

  • Provide safe access to feed chutes for clearing material jams.

  • Comply with labor laws that prohibit hazardous work for children under age 18.

For workers, the NIOSH also recommends:

  • Never bypass or disable interlocks or control switches.

  • Keep all baler-equipment guards in place during operation.

  • Before attempting to clear jammed material, follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA), Washington, D.C., lockout-tagout procedures. These include disconnecting the power from the machine; isolating the power by locking the disconnect; tagging the disconnect to notify others that the power must remain off; mechanically blocking any ram that has the potential to move before accessing the compacting chamber; testing equipment to ensure that the power has been de-energized before beginning work; and locating all co-workers before reactivating the power.

The NIOSH also recommends that employers and employees comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z245.2 and Z245.5 standards, which were created in the 1980s by employees in the waste and recycling industries. The Environmental Industry Associations is the ANSI accredited secretariat for the Z245 standards.

ANSI Z245.2 addresses stationary compactors safety requirements and applies to the manufacture, reconstruction, modification, maintenance, service, operation and installation of stationary compacting equipment. ANSI Z245.5 provides guidelines for baling equipment safety requirements and applies to mechanical, electro-mechanical, hydraulic and electro-hydraulic balers used in recycling and resource recovery processes, solid waste disposal and raw materials handling.

Both standards require employee training in equipment operation to reduce the risk of injury. This training includes opening and closing chambers; loading procedures; attention to warning labels; and lockout procedures to ensure that energy sources are safe. Some sections specify the wording for warning labels. Others advise manufacturers to supply instructions for end-users, such as lockout procedures. These types of procedures will differ based on manufacturer design but also are required by OSHA rules under Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Both the Z245.2 and Z245.5 standards were finalized in 1997 and are now undergoing revision. The new versions will be more technical for manufacturers and will contain additional instructions covering component and construction requirements, electrical safety and electrical systems requirements for manufacturers seeking third-party or self-certification. Revisions also will include: manufacturer supplied instructions for the safe use of the equipment, including lockout-tagout of hazardous energy sources; drive mechanism guarding; and safety markings and labels, and equipment warning signals.

To learn more about the ANSI Z245 standards, call WASTEC's Phil Headley toll-free at (800) 424-2869 or e-mail [email protected]. The NIOSH report is available on the Internet at

Alice Jacobsohn is the director of public affairs and industry research for the EIA, Washington, D.C. E-mail the author at: [email protected].