Working within the landfill and waste management sector can encompass a number of different roles. From collection to the reception and sorting of waste, recycling, to the biological treatment of organic materials such as composting to dealing with incineration and operation within landfill sites, there are many different sides to it. Unfortunately, it’s also an industry where there are a far greater proportion of accidents and fatalities than in many other industries purely because of the nature of the work.
The Main Types of Accidents, Injuries and Health Hazards
Many accidents and injuries that are suffered by those who work within the industry are transport related. These are predominantly associated with street refuse collection vehicles where many workers have been struck by a vehicle and on landfill sites where earth moving vehicles and people on the ground, whose job it is to retrieve valuable waste or contaminated waste from the general rubbish (known as ‘totters’), have been struck by mechanical shovels.
Manual handling injuries are also common with workers suffering severe cuts from sharp objects, such as broken glass as well as suffering musculoskeletal problems which can be caused by incorrect lifting and by the wear and tear of a manual handling job over a long period of time. Respiratory problems and skin conditions such as dermatitis are also common health complaints. Slips and trips, inevitably, also form a large proportion of the number of injuries resulting from working in the industry.
Safety Measures and Best Practice
With a greater societal impetus towards recycling these days, hopefully, over time, we as individuals will have more of a responsibility in terms of how we reduce or recycle our own production of waste which will, hopefully, place less of a burden on those who work within the landfill and waste management sector but we’re never going to be able to recycle everything and in the meantime, it’s important that those who work within the industry continue to strive towards making their working environments even safer.
Incidents involving vehicles can be greatly reduced by eliminating or keeping reversing manoeuvres to a minimum and, it goes without saying that adopting safe procedures including the correct use of warning lights, mirrors and alarms on refuse collection vehicles together with the use of CCTV and radio communication on mechanical diggers on landfill sites, which gives the driver good all round vision and the ability to communicate with those working at ground level have all had a dramatic impact upon reducing the number of accidents and injuries that occur.
Personal protective equipment such as cut resistant and high visibility clothing, face masks, safety goggles and ear muffs have also helped in this regard, alongside more thorough risk assessment and better provisions for the training and competency of staff as the industry has evolved (and continues to do so) over the preceding years.
As more automation is introduced to deal with landfill and waste management, including things like managing hazardous waste, the number of incidents of fatalities and injuries should be reduced. There is also increased competition in the number of private sector companies entering the market so, in order to attract the most professional and skilled workers and to retain them, companies are going to have to place an even greater emphasis on safety and training, and it could be a case of those who might be looking to enter the industry will put those issues to the fore when it comes to choosing the company they’d like to work for.
Both DEFRA and the HSE have further information on landfill and waste management safety for those who may want to find out more.