Landfills are busy places with garbage trucks, transfer trailers, tippers, compactors, dozers and service vehicles in constant motion. Orchestrating the safe arrival, unloading and compaction of waste requires careful planning, education, and ongoing training.
By Will Flower

Accidents at landfills can be catastrophic. The mix of heavy equipment and people can be a recipe for disaster if the safety protocol for receiving and placing waste at the active face of the landfill is not properly planned, implemented, enforced and supervised.

Safety procedures are critical at every landfill, regardless of size or volume. A landfill safety program should start with a thorough evaluation of each step in the disposal process. Potential issues that could place customers or workers at risk should be identified and minimized or eliminated.

Entrance Area and Scale House
Site Entrance
The entrance should allow for trucks to safely decelerate and turn into the landfill. An appropriate queue area should exist to keep trucks from causing traffic issues on public roadways.

The landfill gate should be locked during non-operating hours. When the landfill is open, the gate should be secure especially in windy conditions.

Signage with landfill rules should be posted for customers to follow and remain safe.

Guard rails on the scale should be painted with high visibility paint. The walkways around the scale house should be free of trip hazards. If the driver is required to exit his or her vehicle, make sure the pathway to the scale window is hazard free. Walkways should be level and provide traction in all weather conditions. At the scale house window, the scale house operator can remind drivers to obey speed limits and to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including work boots, high visibility safety vests, hardhats and gloves when unloading at the landfill.

Internal Roadways and the Active Disposal Area
Roadways to and from the active disposal area of the landfill should be free of hazards. Any excessive potholes or ruts should be graded. Wash out areas should be repaired.

Speed Limit Signs
Speeding inside the landfill can be dangerous. Speed limit signs should be posted to remind drivers to maintain safe speeds.

Unloading Area
The active face of the landfill can be a busy place and special attention should be given to the spotter or the equipment operator who is directing traffic. Every customer exiting his or her vehicle must wear high visibility clothing and stay close to their vehicles. Additionally, drivers should be prohibited from scavenging any items from the landfill.

The spotter has responsibility for traffic flow and directing trucks to the proper unloading area. The spotter needs to maintain proper spacing between vehicles including extra space in the event that a vehicle tips over while unloading.

Unloading Pad
The driver must ensure that his or her truck is level and on stable ground prior to unloading waste. This is especially important for dump trailers that have a high center of gravity. In addition to ground stability, wind conditions are an important consideration when a trailer is lifted for unloading.

The compactor and dozer operators must be on constant alert for vehicles that are unloading waste. Special attention must be focused on customers outside of their vehicles.

Public Drop-Off Areas
Some landfills have public drop-off areas for customers in cars who are delivering small volumes of waste to the facility. A drop-off area will reduce traffic congestion and smaller vehicles at the active face of the landfill. The drop-off area usually has several roll-off containers into which customers can toss their waste. When the roll-off boxes are full, they can be hauled to and emptied at the active disposal area. Caution must be taken to ensure that customers cannot accidently fall into a roll-off box. Signage at the public drop-off area should remind customers that they are prohibited from climbing into a container in an attempt to recover items. Good housekeeping around the public drop-off area is important to reduce slips, trips and falls.

Exiting the Landfill
Wheel Cleaning
Trucks that track dirt, rocks and mud onto the public roadway may cause a safety issue. Roadway hazards can be minimized by using a wheel wash station and a street sweeper.

Exiting Lanes
The landfill exit should be designed so that large trucks can see traffic and safely make turns onto the public roadway. There should be adequate room for trucks to accelerate and safely merge into traffic. Signage, warning lights, and traffic signals can be installed to slow motorists as trucks are making turns into and out of the landfill.

Ongoing Safety Education
Customer Education
Landfills can be confusing as roadways and unloading areas are constantly changing. The scale house operator can help customers by explaining landfill rules and providing an informational flyer instructing customers about safety procedures.

Employee Training
Safety meetings are the standard communication tool for educating employees about safety. Safety topics should be relevant to the specific landfill and, similar to hauling operations, safety messages should be delivered on a regular basis to keep safety top of mind among all employees.

Safety performance is an operational matrix for management. Excellent safety performance at a facility should be recognized and celebrated.

Landfill Safety is Critical
There are many other safety considerations at landfills depending on the site. Through a risk evaluation process, threats to safety can be identified and minimized. In some cases, specialized training may be necessary to address confined spaces, leachate management systems and landfill gas-to-energy plants.  The bottom line is that safety at the landfill is critical for both customers and workers. From the front gate to the unloading area, and to the landfill exit, safety needs to be the #1 priority. | WA

Will Flower is the Senior Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems. Will has 36 years of experience in the field of solid waste management and environmental protection. He has held operational and executive leadership positions at the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services. Inc. and Green Stream Recycling.

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