Working safely at a material recycling facility (MRF) presents a number of challenges. In many cases, MRFs are also locations where the general public interfaces with heavy equipment and an industrial process, further emphasizing the need for a comprehensive safety program.
Additionally, on the tipping floor (dumping area) people are out of their vehicles in close proximity to trucks and heavy equipment that are in motion, backing up and dumping materials. Recently, a plastics recycling facility was cited by OSHA for six “serious” and two “repeat” violations exceeding $58,000. The citations were concerning machine safeguarding, fall hazards and control of hazardous energy.
MRFs should have an active and engaged safety committee and perform regular safety inspections to address any safety concerns. Having a robust safety program, a scheduled housekeeping/cleaning program and a well communicated traffic management and contractor/visitor safety plans will help ensure a safe and efficient operation.
Visitors and truck drivers unloading at a MRF should always obey established traffic signs and flow patterns, and be acutely aware of the activity going on around them. Get out of your vehicle only when absolutely necessary and stay close to your vehicle once out. Exercise great caution when walking around or behind any trucks or heavy equipment. Always communicate your location and intentions with the vehicle’s driver or operator. If you cannot see them, they probably cannot see you. High visibility clothing, safety glasses, safety shoes and hard hats are often required at MRFs and on the tipping floor, so check with the site personnel for any requirements covering personal protective equipment.
As an important service to its members, NWRA produces a weekly newsletter, Safety Monday, that covers a wide range of best practices in safety for the waste and recycling industry. Several recent editions have featured safety issues at MRFs.
We encourage you to participate in the next NWRA Safety Seminar on July 21, 2015 at EL Harvey and Sons in Boston, MA. Please visit the NWRA webpage for registration information.