Following the rules

Features - Safety Focus

Adhering to ANSI standards can prevent fatalities and serious injuries at MRFs.

December 29, 2016
Susan Eppes
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Beginning in the 1970s, a group of experienced industry professionals identified the need for a set of safety standards specific to the waste industry that would supplement the more general Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Working with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), headquartered in Washington, a committee of manufacturers, users, unions, insurers and private and public employees established the Z245 series, a set of voluntary standards designed to instruct manufacturers, employers and employees of their roles and responsibilities. The ANSI guidelines help users improve safety by setting minimum levels of performance for equipment, products, processes and practices.

Originally the Z245 standards addressed collection vehicles, balers, compactors and containers. Some of the most familiar and widely applied include riding step rules, startup alarms, backup alarms, interlocked access panels, emergency stops, conspicuity for collection vehicles and containers and warning statements and decals.

Adapting to change

As the industry grew in complexity, standards were developed for material recovery facilities (MRFs) and transfer stations. While the transfer station standard has not changed much since its creation, the MRF standard has evolved from guidelines for facilities that featured relatively simple, dual-stream processing systems to those that address the now very complex single-stream processing systems.

While the baler and compactor standards apply to single pieces of equipment, the MRF standard establishes safety requirements applicable to the design, manufacture, assembly, modification, operation, cleaning, maintenance, servicing and repair of facilities.

Each standard has a dedicated committee composed of industry representatives. The committees meet regularly to address incidents and accidents that apply to equipment, the changing industry environment and any modifications necessary to ensure safety. For example, Target and Wal-Mart both have compactors and balers that are operated by their employees. The committee must make sure these devices are designed with the nonwaste industry operator in mind.

After the committees have reviewed the standards and come up with a list of proposed changes, every five years they are submitted to ANSI for approval. For example, the MRF standard—ANSI Z245.41, Facilities for the Processing of Commingled Recyclable Materials—was renewed in 2016, and ANSI Z245.42—the Waste Transfer Station Safety Requirement—standard, will be reviewed/updated and submitted for renewal in 2017.

The 2016 revised MRF standard includes some of the following key changes:

  • A risk assessment must be completed ensuring reasonably foreseeable machine guarding hazards resulting from the products or services they provide are identified and corresponding risks are reduced to an acceptable level.
  • Guidelines for fall protection were added, and where access to the interior of an optical sorter is possible and the potential of a fall exceeds 48 inches (121.9 centimeters), safety-rated anchor points must be near the exterior access door.
  • Separation screens must be equipped with access doors or covers that are held in the closed position using a positive latch that can be opened using one hand. Door openings must be at least 6.25 square feet (0.58 square meters), with a minimum width of 20 inches (50.8 centimeters) and a minimum height of 30 inches (72.6 centimeters). They must have grab handles capable of supporting 500 pounds in any direction located on the outside and inside of access door entry points. Screens must be equipped with safety interlocks.

Two new standards will begin development in 2017: one to cover safety requirements for size reduction equipment (i.e., tub grinders) and another for landfill operations.

When equipment manufacturers follow the ANSI standards, they are designing safety into their products. When purchasers choose equipment that meets ANSI standards and follow the manufacturers’ guidelines for installation and use, they are creating workplaces that are safer for their employees.

Case study

Jim Webb is engineering manager at recycling system manufacturer Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), Eugene, Oregon. In that capacity, he understands that safety should be the first consideration for any business and supports ANSI’s goals of making the waste industry a safe place to work.

“From design through fabrication and onward to installation and ongoing plant operations, BHS places the highest priority on safety. Membership and active participation on the ANSI Z245 MRF standards committee provides us with an opportunity to collaborate with other industry safety experts, including the operators who ultimately use our equipment,” Webb says.

The ANSI Z245 standards committee defines and sets the safety standards for the waste industry; with this leadership comes ownership. BHS has made participation on the committee a priority for the last decade, actively shaping today’s safety standards for screen access, optical guarding, e-stops and fall protection, among other areas. The company’s involvement has helped define and enforce its high standards for safety.

“It has raised the bar for our company, leading to a high level of awareness that drives our design and process decisions,” Webb says. “It’s reflected in the systems we build, assuring our customers that when they choose BHS, their systems meet or exceed the high safety benchmarks set out in the ANSI 245 standards.

“BHS continues to push the leading edge of technology and, as the waste industry continues to develop, each new process and innovation brings new safety considerations,” he continues. “The importance of continuously assessing and mitigating risk has never been greater. End users need to know that the equipment and systems we provide are safe. Every person in every facility should go home safe and sound at the end of the work day. That’s our belief, and we affirm that belief to all our stakeholders through our continued participation on the committee and our adherence to the ANSI Z245 standards.”

Raising awareness

Participation in ANSI committees is open to all interested parties. Meetings are twice per year, with regular conference calls in the interim. If you are a manufacturer or user of waste and recycling equipment and you want to ensure your opinions are heard, you may wish to consider joining one of the committees.

The Washington-based National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), a trade association representing private-sector U.S. waste and recycling companies, is the secretariat for the Z245 series of ANSI standards for the waste industry. To learn more about how you can participate in the ANSI process, contact Bret Biggers by email at bbiggers@wasterecycling.org or by telephone at 202-364-3710.

Susan Eppes is president of Houston-based EST Solutions. She can be contacted at susaneppes@comcast.net or through her website at https://estsolutions.com.