Material Recovery Facilities General Safety

material recovery facility safetyMaterial Recovery Facilities General Safety Talk

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Material recovery facilities (MRFs), also referred to as material recycling facilities or material reclamation facilities, handle a range of materials from residential, commercial, and industrial locations. MRFs may contain strictly recyclable material or they may contain waste that needs to be sorted.

Waste is brought to the MRF to be sorted, baled, and shipped to various locations, such as recycling centers and manufacturers. MRFs are essential to help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill sites and maximize recycling taking place in the country. While there are many hazards that exist at an MRF, when proper safety practices are implemented, the exposure to these hazards is drastically reduced.

Best Practices to Mitigate Common Hazards at Material Recovery Facilities

Mobile Equipment

  • Prior to operating powered industrial trucks (PITs), such as forklifts or any other mobile equipment, employees must be trained on the specific equipment being operated.
  • Mobile equipment must be operated as intended by the manufacturer. Horseplay and improper use of mobile equipment is forbidden.
  • Be aware of trucks, trailers, and other equipment entering the MRF. Never step in the path of the equipment as the operator may not see you.

Sorting Stations

  • Bloodborne pathogens such as blood, bodily fluids, and needles create a serious hazard when handling waste. Proper gloves and other personal protective equipment (“PPE”) must always be worn when this hazard is present.
  • Be aware of potentially sharp items such as glass, metal, or sharp plastic items that could be in the waste. Always look before grabbing items in order to help reduce this exposure. Also, ensure to wear proper gloves that offer the protection needed.
  • Use proper lifting methods, maintain proper posture, and take frequent breaks from repetitive motions when working at a sorting station.

Conveyors, Processing Machines, and Systems

  • Machine guarding should be in place in all areas where a person could be exposed to moving parts, pinch points, or other hazards. Never remove or modify machine guards.
  • Never step on, get on top of, or place any body part in a conveyor or any other machine.
  • If you service or maintain machines or equipment that could start up unexpectedly or release hazardous energy, be sure that a qualified person follows OSHA’s lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures. Never try to clear a jam without first performing LOTO.

Material Storage Areas

  • Only stable, homogenous, properly labeled, and tied bales should be stacked.
  • Bale stacking should be limited to four high. When stacking higher than four, a stair-stepped method should be used.
  • Be cognizant of floor and lateral wall loading limits when placing bales.
  • Stacked bales should be inspected daily for integrity.

Other Safe Work Practices

  • Your employer may require hearing protection to be worn in areas with noise levels above OSHA’s permissible exposure limit. Always wear your hearing protection in these areas.
  • Should a fire start in your work area, remain calm, and raise the fire alarm to notify others of the fire. Evacuate, dial 911, and stay out of the building in your designated muster location. Remember that fire extinguishers are meant to extinguish fires in their incipient (beginning) phase. If the fire is growing, get out, and call 911.


There are countless hazards that exist at material recovery facilities. In fact, the waste industry is one of the most hazardous industries that exist. Using safe working practices, such as those discussed above, is critical to reduce the likelihood of accidents taking place. It is vital to remain aware of your surroundings and never take safety shortcuts in this industry. If unsafe working conditions are discovered, stop working and report it to management immediately.

Discussion points:

  1. How should you protect yourself from bloodborne pathogens?
  2. When is it acceptable to remove a machine guard?
  3. What are some other hazards that were not mentioned in this safety talk?

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