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Risk Insight Waste Management: Using Machinery Safely

Your waste management and recycling facility relies on a wide variety of machinery—including conveyor belts, compactors, forklifts and hammermills—to complete day-to-day operations. However, these machines present risks for your employees—using them incorrectly can cause damage, injury and death. As an owner or manager of a waste management and recycling facility, it is critical to perform a risk assessment for your machinery and facility to identify what hazards are present and how to limit liability.

Machinery Legislation
To minimise the hazards that your employees may encounter, enforce and abide by these regulations:

  1. Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) – This covers any and all equipment that your employees will use while on-site—from simple hammers and spanners to the more complex motor vehicles. You are required to ensure that every piece of equipment is well-maintained, is in working condition and is regularly inspected for quality assurance.
  2. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) – This applies to any equipment used for lifting or lowering loads, including any attachments that would be required to complete the task. This would consist of equipment such as chains, slings, cranes, lifts and hoists. You are obligated to provide equipment that is sufficiently strong enough for any given task, properly installed and marked with the appropriate safety information. Additionally, before any task that requires lifting equipment begins, the job needs to be well-planned and clearly outlined, the equipment must be fully inspected for quality, the area where the equipment is to be used needs to be clearly marked and a report should be filed for your records

For more detailed guidance on complying with these regulations, click here.

Reduce Machinery Risks

Often accidents occur on-site when the incorrect equipment is chosen for a given task or a job was not clearly outlined with the proper safety procedures. Effectively managing your employees’ risks involves you planning ahead to ensure that the proper equipment is available and that your employees are adequately trained to complete any task.

Knowing the proper equipment for each task requires you to evaluate and identify what you want the job to achieve as well as what risks would be associated with it. This forethought should involve the following:

  • Outlining the different steps involved in the task
  • Inspecting to ensure that all machines’ safeguards are correctly installed and functional
  • Performing regular maintenance inspections to ensure that the machine can operate safely
  • Training your employees on proper operating procedures for each machine, as well as general workplace safety behaviour
  • Labelling all your machines with clear instructions for general switches and emergency controls
  • Marking the areas around stationary machines to alert both employees and visitors of the risks

Additionally, conduct regular risk assessments of your facility to recognise any new hazards and report on the hazards you have already identified. Involve your employees in these discussions to determine whether there are more efficient or safer alternatives to current procedures. Regardless of what your assessment uncovers, record your findings—what, if any, hazards you identified, who would be affected and what safety measures you have taken to mitigate the risk.

Additional Hazards to Consider

Additional hazards exist beyond the machinery in your waste management and recycling facility. However, these hazards—for example, access and work from height, falling objects and confined spaces—are sometimes closely associated with tasks that involve the standard mechanical equipment.

  • Access and work from height – In certain situations—such as sheeting or unsheeting a vehicle’s load—it is necessary for your employees to work at a possibly dangerous height. Enforce the use of access equipment—including ladders, scaffolding and scissor lifts—coupled with fall arrest equipment, if applicable, to mitigate the risk of injury or death related to a fall.
  • Falling objects – It is not uncommon for heavy objects to be moved or disturbed during the course of a particular task. However, this movement can prove to be potentially damaging or fatal. Therefore, it is critical that your employees are properly trained on how to best move material to minimise the risk of dislodging heavy objects, as well as to avoid work areas that have a high potential of material falling.
  • Confined spaces – A variety of spaces can be defined as confined, such as storage tanks, enclosed drains or sewers, enclosed conveyor systems, and unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms. These spaces present a hazard not just to your employees who may have to work within them but to the rescue crew called to extract them. Before any task is assigned that would require one or more of your employees to work within a confined space, conduct a risk assessment to identify the related risks, how best to handle them and, if possible, an alternate method that does not involve working within the space.

Proper Machine Use Promotes Safety

Machines are a vital component to the successful day-to-day operations of your waste management and recycling facility. And, while there are inherent hazards associated with these machines, they are avoidable.

Through thorough examination and planning of your operations, you can identify possible hazards, learn how best to address their risks, identify what the best mechanical equipment for a given task is, and enforce safety precautions for machine operation. These practices promote proper machine use, which in turn helps bolster workplace safety and limit liability.

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