Tips to Stay Healthy for Waste, Recycling Workers

Hygiene is important always, but during this time of this pandemic, here are some COVID-19 work practices for workers handling waste and recycling products.

Online resource Waste360 and a recent webinar from the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) provide some important information for workers handling waste and recycling on how to stay clean and healthy during this pandemic.

Like postal service workers, delivery workers and sanitation workers, handling the products and surfaces that come out of people’s homes is dangerous when there’s a global coronavirus pandemic. It’s important for waste and recycling workers to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves, and for employers to work to provide the right protections for their employees.

From wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to practicing social distancing to using the right sanitation products, there are a number of ways you can decrease your risk and exposure to the virus.

On March 19, NWRA’s Healthcare Waste Institute published COVID-19 FAQs, a document which addresses the safe handling of waste during the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 30, its webinar mentioned that the CDC and OSHA have not issued specific guidelines for handling waste and recycling materials, so the NWRA’s guidance can be followed as best practice.

“The guidance is not legal advice, and it’s not a regulatory recommendation. It’s a best practice created by those who have looked at the general materials [from CDC and OSHA regarding COVID-19] and provided guidance [to the industry],” the NWRA said..

The document also provides tips on how to best handle regulated medical waste, how to properly sanitize surfaces, how to handle waste that may be contaminated and more. .

To sanitize surfaces, workers should reference the EPA’s list of registered antimicrobial products for fighting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The article mentions that waste materials that are or could be contaminated with the virus should be handled as they typically would for the flu, according to the CDC and WHO.

Workers should also wear appropriate PPE such as puncture-resistant gloves and face/eye protection to prevent exposure. Additionally, they should wash and disinfect their hands multiple times a day, avoid touching their eyes or face, use engineering and administrative controls like automated or semiautomated collection and social distancing.

Your job type within the waste and recycling industries also matters. The Waste 360 article provides specific tips on how should protect yourself as a person in management, a technician, a dispatch or scale house operator, a driver or a sorter.

Also, if you do not feel your employer is doing enough to protect you, have a conversation with them to express your concerns and approach a solution together.

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