Not surprisingly, with the amount of recyclable materials collected each year steadily increasing, the amount of materials being delivered to recycling facilities has risen in unison. Before a potential lorry-load can enter recycling plants and/or machinery, it typically has to be manually sorted, a process known in the industry as ‘Totting’. The majority of recycling processes require that materials which can’t be recycled or could clog equipment further down the line are removed and that mixed waste streams are separated depending on their constituent parts. Totting is carried out by humans, or ‘Totters’ and can be a particularly dangerous occupation, with many accidents involving collisions between totters and lorries or mechanical shovels resulting in serious injuries or fatalities.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in consultation with the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum, has released updated guidance to now include many practical examples in an attempt to reduce the amount of totting accidents and injuries.
The document states that the most effective form of eliminating workplace collisions is through the use of mechanised sorting methods, such as MRFs, eliminating the close-proximity of employees to vehicles. Material Reclamation Facilities sort a waste stream through the use of magnets, eddy current separators and trommels (screened cylinders), and often include the use of a conveyor belt, lifting materials up off the floor.
However, the HSE appreciate that an MRF is not always the best solution or the most affordable for smaller businesses, so offers a number of alternative measures where the practice of totting is still to take place:
· Encourage suppliers and customers to pre-sort wastes so they do not require sorting following delivery
· All vehicles and pedestrians should be segregated from each other so far as is reasonably practical
· Structure totting sites to ensure good visibility for drivers, e.g. avoid blind corners, and provide additional mirrors and adequate lighting
· Each totting bay should have a separate pedestrian access point away from traffic movements
· Any barriers erected should be clearly visible, e.g. hazard stripes or brightly coloured, and capable of being closed/lowered from inside the totting area
· Appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) should be provided, including high-visibility clothing, suitable gloves and overalls, safety boots, safety helmets and eye protection
Regular risk assessments and employee training are also advised, including for external candidates such as drivers, with an emphasis on employee engagement and continuous improvement.