This is the second of a three-part series on facility inspections. Conducting regular reviews of solid waste and recycling facilities help identify potential worker safety hazards before anyone gets hurt.
By Will Flower

Monthly or quarterly inspections of facilities can improve safety and ensure compliance with Federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations. The following checklist is useful to review personal protective equipment, fire protection systems, hazardous material storage areas, and the use of hand tools at solid waste facilities. The checklists can aid the inspection process and ensure that important items are addressed. Trained inspectors will look beyond the checklist and have the ability to identify concerns that are not on the checklist. The bottom line is that anything that does not look safe should be identified in the inspection report and corrected to avoid injury or disruptions to operations.

Site inspector review of fire suppression systems including fire extinguishers to ensure the proper pressure inside the fire extinguisher and to make sure the unit is in good operating condition. Photos courtesy of Will Flower.

Checklist #2
Instructions: A properly trained facility manager, safety manger, supervisor, or team of qualified individuals should conduct the inspection. Do not rush the inspection process. Verify compliance with each item. Make written notes of all corrective actions needed and the location of safety issues that need attention. Immediately assign corrective actions to appropriate personnel. Follow up to make certain necessary corrective actions have been taken to remove, repair, or replace the non-compliant situation. Once the inspection is complete, sign, date, and file the checklist.

#1: Evaluate Personal Protective Equipment

  • Appropriate signage in place to identify where the use of PPE is required (near grinders, high noise areas, etc.)
  • Welding cap lenses in good working condition and appropriate for the tasks that are performed
  • Welding jackets, aprons, and gloves in good condition
  • Hearing protection available where required
  • Respirators clean and properly stored in bag/wipes available
  • Spare hardhats, eye protection, gloves, and hard hats are readily available.

#2: Review Fire Protection Systems

  • Fire extinguishers present, properly charged, and current inspection tag
  • Hoses, sprinkler heads, and valves unobstructed
  • Minimum vertical cearance between automatic sprinklers and material below is at least 18″ (36″ for bales). Check and comply with local code.
  • Closed containers provided for oily and soiled rag disposal
  • Fire doors kept closed
  • No Smoking signs posted in required areas (e.g. fuel stations, battery storage rack)

#3: Check General Environmental Controls

  • Changes of elevation (e.g., steps, curbs, containment, ramps) readily identifiable or painted yellow
  • Potable water (drinking water) provided for employees
  • Non-Potable sources labeled
  • Signs posted to warn of automatic starting of compressors
  • Proper labeling of Permit Required Confined Spaces labeled “Danger – Permit Required Confined Space”
  • Oil water separator working properly
  • Wash down/wheel wash operating properly
  • Site safety rules signage posted and legible
  • Odor control system functioning
  • Vector control system in place

#4: Evaluate Hand and Portable Powered Tools

  • All tools and equipment in good condition and have the correct shield or guard in place
  • Hand tools not worn, bent, mushroomed (chisels, hammers)
  • Jacks in good operating condition
  • Load rating on jacks legible
  • No homemade jack stands or tools
  • Tool cutting edges kept sharp to prevent binding or skipping
  • All power tools with cords are properly grounded
  • Pressure washer in good condition (hoses, vents, fuel lines)
  • Pneumatic and hydraulic hoses in good condition
  • Compressed air used for cleaning has the pressure reduced to under 30 p.s.i.

#5: Review areas where Hazardous Materials are used and stored

  • Flammable liquids (gasoline, kerosene, flammable aerosols) stored in approved safety can/flammable storage cabinet
  • No oxidizing materials stored in flammable liquids cabinet
  • Spill kits available around fueling areas
  • Nozzles and hoses in good condition at fueling area
  • Proper signage in area
  • Emergency shut-off clearly marked at fueling area
  • Emergency shut-off accessible and operable
  • Combustible liquids stored in non-combustible cabinets

#6: Inspect Processing Operations at Recycling Centers

  • Conveyors working properly, rollers secure and clean (i.e., no excessive debris build up at rollers)
  • Start-up alarms (15 seconds before start-up) are in place and operational on processing equipment such as conveyors
  • Padded floor mats in place and in good condition at each sorter work station (i.e. not creating a trip hazard)
  • Portable platforms available for each sorter if needed
  • Walkways and exit routes on sorting line are not blocked or cluttered with debris, material
  • Guards attached covering at all pinch points (e.g. rollers, drives) at conveyors
  • Emergency stop and pull cords for equipment (e.g. conveyors, baler) in place, within 3 feet of sorting stations and operational’


  • Safety professionals inspect an above ground tank of motor oil. All storage tanks should have proper signage and should be in proper operating conditions with no leaks or spills in the area.

Addressing Safety Issues
Once the checklist is complete, the results should be reviewed at staff meetings to ensure that issues are addressed and corrected in a timely manner. People must be given assignments to correct deficiencies and report back when corrections are made. Common or repeat issues can help the safety manager, maintenance manager, and site manager determine areas where additional training or new equipment is necessary.

Over time, facility inspections should become easier as employees become better trained and as the number of potential hazards decrease. The goal is to have a robust inspection program that is able to identify safety issues and immediately correct problems. | WA

Will Flower is the Senior Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems.

Share your safety tip. Submit your suggestions to Will Flower at [email protected].