Handle Waste Properly for Jobsite Safety
Job site waste is not only unsightly but can also be dangerous. Injuries such as cuts, scrapes, punctures, strains, sprains, and eye injuries can easily happen to workers. While those are relatively minor incidents depending on what’s laying around and how debris is being handled, the fact is that serious injuries and in some cases even fatalities can happen when waste isn’t handled properly.
Consider this: Building an average-size home usually produces nearly 10,000 pounds in construction-related waste. With that being said, that amount of waste requires some forethought in managing waste handling and placement on the job site as well as actual disposal. Depending on the job, some of the materials may be classified as hazardous, so accommodations for proper disposal of these items is also a necessity. Developing guidelines for safe handling and disposal of construction waste is always considered a best practice - one that should be clearly communicated to work crews. Here are a few safety rules that can help get you started on developing more comprehensive guidelines applicable to your business and area of specialty.
Protective Wear: Work crews should be required to wear appropriate protective clothing when working on construction sites. Some of the most basic yet most important items include hard hats, safety eye-wear, dust masks, steel-toed and/or rubber boots, heavy-duty gloves, earplugs or muffs, and safety yellow or green vests or shirts.
Construction Waste: Many of the materials disposed of on a construction site are sharp and have irregular shapes. Some of the materials can be small and relatively easy to handle while others are large and require special handling. Waste items can include the following materials – re-bar, glass, screws, nails, steel, drywall, tar paper, bricks, cable, and wire, to mention just a few. Work crews should always be mindful of the types of material they will come in contact with so that they can take the necessary precautions to avoid injury.
Handling/Disposal of Construction Waste: Special care and caution must be taken when handling certain types of construction waste. Large amounts of concrete may require the use of a loader. Steel, re-bar, pipe and wire bent in unconventional shapes my require cutting to conform to the shape and size of the waste container; and certainly warrant extra care when loading. Nails, glass, and tile that are exposed can cause injury. And wood, drywall, and carpeting in large pieces may need to be cut into smaller sizes before safely lifting into a dumpster. Other items may contain dust particles - fiberglass and insulation being the primary culprits. A mask is essential in these situations to eliminate or reduce the risk of inhaling harmful airborne particles. Always be aware of materials that you suspect contain asbestos. These will require a qualified/certified asbestos abatement team for disposal in order to protect crew members.
Barriers: If construction waste can’t be immediately disposed of in a waste container, always place yellow warning tape or some type of barrier and signs around piles left lying on the ground. The barriers and signs should be affixed to the ground as a way to discourage their removal. Account for a minimum of 5 feet clearance between the waste pile and the barrier. Signs should be fully visible at all times around waste piles and construction waste piles should be removed as quickly as possible.
Demolition Waste: Demolition waste is produced from any structure like a house, office buildings, apartment complexes, bridges, retail stores, hotels/motels, or schools are torn down. With demolition, a different type of waste is produced. Some of the more common include concrete, bricks, wood, sinks, shingles, bathtubs, toilets, pumps, cabinetry, countertops, hot water tanks, glass, molding, foam, stucco, steel beams, and insulation materials. Here again, demolition crews should always be mindful of the type of waste they are dealing with and handle as such.
Hazardous/Toxic Waste: Construction and demolition can produce hazardous or toxic waste materials. Lead paint, tar, chemical-based glue and caulking, asbestos (panels & insulation), fuels, and corrosive materials are some of the more common items that will need special handling. Mold can be an issue as well, especially from materials associated with demolition in warm or humid climates. When construction or demolition waste is suspected of containing toxic substances, it must be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. Most county and municipal landfills will not accept toxic and some hazardous materials. Handling and disposing of toxic waste requires the use of personal protective equipment including a full-body jump suit and a respirator.
Handling and disposing of construction and demolition waste carries risks. However, with advance planning and preparation, the potential for injury can be mitigated substantially. Knowing what the material is and what it contains before you start clean-up and disposal is very important. Always dispose of construction waste at an approved site, and use a tarp (or tarping system) to cover the waste container so as to prevent hazardous debris from being blown out and onto the roadway.