This report presents the findings of a study to investigate exposures to dust and its microbiological components amongst workers employed at Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs).
The report shows the potential for workers to be exposed to general airborne dust above the level where it is considered a substance hazardous to health (10 mg/m3 as an 8-hr TWA). Also, there is the potential for exposure to fungi and bacteria, as well as endotoxins, which are agents known to have harmful effects on human health. Endotoxin exposures may be at levels greater than the health-based limit identified by the Dutch Expert Committee on Occupational Safety of 90 EU/m3.
MRFs play an important role in meeting the demand on UK government to substantially reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. Provision of MRF sites will be necessary to meet demands for recycling and this industry is likely to expand in the long term. Although recycling and sorting of waste is increasingly mechanised, reliance on manual operations still remains.
The report concludes that the health implications of employee exposure to dust and bioaerosols was not fully considered at the sites visited. This was associated with a lack of corporate occupational health strategies and a failure to adequately manage health and hygiene provision. Areas for improvement identified included: undertaking suitable and sufficient risk assessments; adoption of well implemented, risk-based health surveillance programmes; and the provision of adequate hygiene facilities.
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