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Best Practices for ensuring safety in Waste Handling

05 April, 2024

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — 5 April, 2024: From household trash to industrial byproducts, the management of waste materials presents numerous challenges. Waste management encompasses a wide range of activities, including collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal of various types of waste. Each stage of this process presents unique safety hazards that must be effectively managed to prevent accidents, contamination, and environmental degradation. Waste & Recycling magazine spoke to industry experts to understand first-hand the safety measures undertaken by waste management companies.


Mohamed Elsherief, Group Strategy Director – Waste Management, WASCO, said, “As a recycling company, the primary safety hazards associated with our operations revolve around three key areas: collection, processing, and storage. These encompass various stages, including sorting, handling, transportation, and baling.”

In the collection phase, risks arise from heavy machinery usage, and accidents during transportation. During processing, hazards may include entanglement in machinery, exposure to sharp objects or hazardous materials, and risks related to machine movement and manual handling tasks. And the use of heavy equipment and machinery poses a risk of injuries if not operated properly.

He drew our attention to the presence of potentially combustible and other unexpected hazardous materials in mixed waste, noting that they pose fire threats. “The possibility of fire occurring in the stocked material warrants prevention measures such as safety protocols and providing adequate training to all personnel involved in waste management operations,” said  Elsherief, adding, “Waste and recyclable materials generate a significant amount of dust, which can pose serious health consequences to our workers. The operation of heavy machinery and equipment presents a risk of accidents, which could lead to injuries or fatalities among workers.”

Speaking about the Risk Management Measures, he remarked, “Our goal is to ensure the safety of our employees, protect the well-being of our communities, and preserve the environment for future generations.”

WASCO maintains a comprehensive risk register and regularly updates it to ensure that risks are identified, mitigated, and properly controlled throughout its operations, he said. By providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, respirators, and protective clothing, the company minimises exposure to hazardous materials and ensures the safety of its employees, by providing appropriate PPE.

Elsherif noted that WASCO adheres strictly to all relevant environmental and health regulations and standards governing the handling, transportation, processing, and disposal of recyclable materials. This commitment includes obtaining the necessary permits and licenses and conducting ongoing monitoring and reporting of our environmental performance. It also conducts regular training sessions to educate its employees about the potential hazards associated with the types of waste we handle and the proper procedures for safe handling, storage, and disposal. The company is working in close coordination with its training Academy HIPIT to develop certified training as per international standard.

Safety training programme

Training requirements vary based on position levels within the organisation, he pointed out. Managers play a pivotal role in shaping safety protocols and fostering a culture of security within the workplace. For them, acquiring international safety certifications like OSHA, NEBOSH, and advanced credentials such as the Safety, Health, and Environment (SHA) Safety Certificate and Occupational Health and Safety Technologist (OHST) is imperative. Supervisors, acting as frontline leaders, require training that equips them to identify and mitigate hazards associated with waste management operations. Courses on Hazard Identification and Control empower them to recognise potential dangers and implement effective supervisory techniques to uphold safety protocols diligently.

Operators will benefit from training focusing on equipment operation and maintenance. Specialised training in fire safety, chemical handling, and the proper utilisation of PPE will enable them to navigate potential risks inherent in their roles.

Explaining the general measures that organisations should take to prevent accidents and injuries, he listed the following: Hazard Identification and Assessment; Establishment of Safety Protocols and Comprehensive Safety Policies and Procedures; Regular Equipment Maintenance; Comprehensive Employee Training; and Vehicle Safety Measures.


Martin Brogan, HSE Director, Dulsco Group, highlighted a range of safety hazards inherent in waste management operations. These include spillages leading to soil and water contamination, chemical hazards, fire risks, heavy manual handling, slips, trips, pinch and cut injuries, exposure to pathogens, and vehicle accidents. “Hazards can be avoided when health and safety protocols, policies and training are in place, along with all precautionary measures taken to avoid and mitigate the risk, which is the responsibility of the organisation operating in this sector,” he remarked.

Depending on the type of waste, environmental risks include land, air, and water pollution from improper waste disposal, endangering ecosystems and public health, while the health risks for workers include inhalation of harmful substances, direct contact with hazardous waste, and exposure through skin abrasions. Brogan emphasised comprehensive induction and training, utilisation of PPE, and adherence to waste management protocols to mitigate these risks. “But it doesn’t stop there; we continuously monitor and assess our risk mechanisms, ensuring effective hazard management and safeguarding environmental integrity and the health of our workers and surrounding communities.”   Waste Management companies should implement comprehensive safety training covering various aspects including emergency preparedness, equipment operation and maintenance, and spill management, he said, adding, “These protocols cover vital areas such as defensive driving, where employees learn to safely operate waste management vehicles to minimise road accidents, training in manual handling and proper lifting techniques, as well as the efficient use of PPE.”

He stressed the need for dedicated training programmes focusing on hazard identification and risk management, safe handling and storage of materials, fire safety, emergency preparedness, equipment operation and maintenance, health and wellness as well as identifying and mitigating slip and trip hazards, instructing employees on the correct storage, handling and disposal procedures for hazardous materials, and effectively managing spills to contain and clean them up safely are important in promoting a safer working environment and preventing environmental contamination.  Regular monitoring of air and noise levels, alongside health considerations, is essential. Compliance with health regulations, including required medical checks and occupational health cards, further underscores Dulsco’s commitment to employee well-being, he pointed out.

“At Dulsco, we have implemented a proactive approach by installing air and noise monitors at our facilities. These monitors continuously track the safety standards of air quality and assess prolonged noise exposure. We comply with the DHA on ensuring all staff have the required medical check and are provided with the DHA Occupational Health Card.”

Brogan underscored the importance of establishing a comprehensive waste management framework, including effective waste separation techniques and SOPs for tasks. “We always remind our staff that our priority is to ensure they return home safely to their families every day.”

“Dulsco’s safety regulations align with international HSE guidelines, prioritising employee well-being and environmental stewardship, he pointed out.


Haris Tahir, Manager Circular Facilities, Evogreen, said, “From chemical exposure to physical dangers, the risks are diverse and require comprehensive measures for mitigation.”

Chemical exposure ranks among the foremost concerns, as handling hazardous waste can subject workers to harmful substances. Inhalation, ingestion, or absorption of chemicals may lead to various health issues, including respiratory problems and skin irritations. Physical hazards such as sharp objects and heavy machinery pose risks of injuries ranging from cuts to fractures, he added.

He also spoke about the biological hazards, prevalent in medical waste and organic matter, and they carry the potential for infectious diseases, necessitating vigilant precautions.

Heat stress, particularly in hot climates or confined spaces, presents another challenge, along with the risk of falls from heights or entrapment in confined spaces. He listed radiation exposure, noise and vibration exposure and falls and confined spaces as other safety threats.

For companies handling specific types of waste, additional environmental and health risks may arise, including dust, fumes, and the potential for land and water contamination. Employing engineering controls such as ventilation systems helps minimise emissions, while regular monitoring and maintenance ensure compliance with safety standards, he added,highlighting the importance of appropriate PPE.  “At Evogreen, regular monitoring and maintenance schedules are implemented to ensure compliance with safety standards,” he remarked.

In terms of safety training, he advocated tailored training programmes to address the specific tasks and risks encountered by employees involved in waste management operations. “Comprehensive training and education programmes are essential. Employees should receive thorough instruction on proper handling techniques, equipment operation, and adherence to safety protocols. This equips them with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate their roles safely within the waste management environment.”

Regular equipment maintenance is also crucial, he said, adding that vehicles used for waste collection, sorting machinery, and disposal equipment should undergo routine inspection and servicing to prevent malfunctions and accidents.

Clear and well-established safe handling procedures play a vital role in accident prevention. Guidelines for lifting heavy objects, handling hazardous materials, and operating machinery should be clearly defined and adhered to by all workers.

In the event of accidents, spills, or other incidents, having a robust emergency response plan in place is essential. This plan should be developed, communicated, and practiced regularly to ensure swift and effective responses to emergencies.

“Stay updated with local, state, and federal regulations related to waste management and ensure compliance to avoid legal liabilities and penalties”

Source: Wasterecyclingmea