SWANA updates safety campaign with tips for MRFs

SWANA updates safety campaign with tips for MRFs

“Five to Stay Alive” safety resources expand with addition of guidelines for MRF workers.

May 12, 2017
Recycling Today Staff

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland, has developed a new installment to its “Five to Stay Alive” series that features safety tips material recovery facility (MRF) workers should follow. 

The Five to Stay Alive series offers five safety guidelines MRF workers should follow, including: 

Follow lockout/tagout, always. Never access a baler, compactor, screen or metering drum unless
lockout/tagout has been performed per the equipment-specific procedure. Always verify that the energy has been controlled.

Do not walk on conveyors. Walking, standing or crossing over a conveyor at any time is strictly
prohibited unless you locked/tagged it out or witnessed it being locked out/tagged out.

Beware of heights. If fall protection is required (exposure to a fall of greater than 4 feet) you
should be trained and authorized to wear the fall protection gear.

Bale safety. Bales should never be stacked more than 4 feet high. No one should stand near stacked bales, which can fall over if struck by a forklift.

Maintain a safe distance from moving equipment. Always maintain at least 15 feet separation between you and any mobile equipment.

The number of MRF worker fatalities increased over the previous year, SWANA says, and the multitude of injury hazards at recycling facilities remain high. The complex and fast-paced environment of a modern MRF requires well-trained and educated employees and employers.

The Five to Stay Alive safety campaign includes flyers and posters that provide a set of guidelines for employees to follow in order to reduce accidents and injuries on the job.

“The safety performance of the waste industry is not acceptable, and at least two MRF workers were killed earlier this year,” says David Biderman, SWANA’s executive director and CEO. “With volatile commodity prices, we urge companies and local governments to not reduce their focus on worker safety. SWANA will continue to provide useful safety resources and training to public and private sector employers and employees in both the United States and Canada. Nothing we do is more important.”

SWANA says it encourages waste industry professionals to use this tool, in addition to its other safety resources, to continue efforts in creating a positive workplace safety culture, to move the solid waste industry off of the federal government’s list of most dangerous jobs.  

“Our industry is relying more and more on MRFs to remove materials from the waste stream, which makes this new Five to Stay Alive installment particularly relevant,” says Tom Parker, SWANA’s Safety Committee chair. “It is imperative that we work safely every minute of every day, and integrating these five basic principles at MRFs can help us achieve this goal.”

Five to Stay Alive resources are available for download on the SWANA website for sharing in promoting safety to colleagues and other industry professionals. The Spanish version will be available in June. 

The first five tips SWANA offered as part of its campaign for transfer stations are:

  • Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE), especially high-visibility vests and/or outerwear.
  • Never use your cellphone while driving or at a disposal facility.
  • Don’t ride on the step if the truck is backing up or traveling more than 10 mph or more than 1/5 of a mile.
  • Always comply with safety belt rules.
  • Don’t exceed the speed limit or rush.

To learn more about SWANA’s award-winning safety program, please visit swana.org/safety.