Hazards at HHW collection facilities are common. Fortunately, a combination of thoughtful facility design, best operating practices and prudent administrative procedures can ward off many potential accidents and injuries.
By David Nightingale

Safety at Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Facilities is an enduring topic. Although there has been a paucity of dramatic accidents at HHW collection facilities, there are ways to design or remodel an HHW facility to improve the overall safety of the operations.

First—Why Worry About Safety?
A quick set of bullet points should help answer this question from a number of viewpoints:
1. Employee Impacts
• Ethical responsibility to employees for safe workplace
• Improve workplace comfort, morale, and productivity

2. Risk Management
• Improve insurance loss prevention, and possibly lower premiums
• Reduce likelihood of environmental release and associated costs of cleanup
• Reduce time lost, medical, and labor expenses

3. Avoid OSHA fines

4. Avoid loss or damage to building

Integrated Design
Overall safety of an operation is improved if the design is complemented by appropriate selection of equipment, operating choices, and administrative support functions. This is called an integrated approach to facility design. As a bonus, a safer operation often includes attributes of increased operational efficiency and lower operating costs (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Integrated HHW design.
Images courtesy of Special Waste Associates.

Common hazards at HHW collection facilities are:

1. Chemical Health Hazards
• Hazardous Vapors, Splashes, and Other Exposures—In addition to the usual PPE such as gloves, aprons, eye protection and shoes, consider supplied-air hoods for workers packing or bulking flammable liquids, pesticides, and absorbents with fine dust particles

2. Physical Hazards (most common injury types)
• Slip, Trips, and Falls—Eliminate step hazards, steep slopes, ramps, and other trip and fall hazards in your design
• Moving Vehicles—Provide safe traffic flow, striping, bollards, and signage in your design
• Repetitive Motion Injuries—Provide machines to reduce physical stress in your operation
• Heavy or Awkward Loads—Provide training on safe lifting and lifting equipment everywhere practical

3. Explosive atmospheres from evaporation of flammable liquids
• Provide local and area ventilation as well as combustible gas monitoring equipment and explosion proof equipment in separate rooms for flammable liquids handling and bulking. Also provide bonding and grounding cables where flammable liquids are consolidated.

Address the Heat and Protect from Weather
A significant hazard is also provided by the weather, especially high ambient temperatures. Heat-related fatalities in the U.S. are year after year the most common weather-related category. So, be sure to include heat stress mitigation in your operations plan and design your facility for a cool refuge from seasonal heat.

Lack of protection from blown precipitation leads to water hazard as shown in Figure 2. Figure 3 shows an example of a receiving area with protection from wind-blown precipitation.

Figure 2:
Water accumulation without weather protection.
Figure 3: Customer drive-through with translucent rain shield side panels and 10′ entrance/exit overhangs in Thurston County, WA.

Finally, make sure to add natural lighting throughout the building. Sufficient natural lighting not only reduces energy costs, but it also provides a safer and more pleasant operation environment (see Figures 4 and 5).

Figure 4:
Natural lighting at City of Mesa Facility, AZ.


Figure 5:
Polycarbonate Glazing in H-2 Room at Elk Grove, CA.

Hazards at HHW collection facilities are common. Fortunately, a combination of thoughtful facility design, best operating practices and prudent administrative procedures can ward off many potential accidents and injuries. | WA

David Nightingale, CHMM, S.C., is Principal at Special Waste Associates (Olympia, WA), a company that assists communities in developing or improving HHW and VSQG collection infrastructure and operations. They have visited more than 155 operating HHW collection facilities in North America.  As a specialty consulting firm, Special Waste Associates works directly for program sponsors providing independent design review for new or upgrading facilities—from concept through final drawings to create safer, more efficient, and cost-effective collection infrastructures. Special Waste Associates also published the book HHW Collection Facility Design Guide and companion book Chronicle of the HHW Corner.  David can be contacted at (360) 491-2190, e-mail Dave@specialwasteassoc.com or visit www.specialwasteassoc.com.