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3 Plans in the Landfill Safety Checklist to Control Hazards

Using a landfill safety checklist will ensure compliance with landfill safety rules and improve the competency of workers. Know the warning signs of explosive gas buildup and other hazards that are prone to landfills. Read this article to find out more!

What Is a Landfill Safety Checklist?

A landfill safety checklist is a document that contains a list of all the hazards that endangers a worker’s health and welfare. This document also includes safety regulations mandated by respective government departments. It also contains recommendations from an international organization, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who is an authority on landfills and health.

Landfills are designated facilities by the government to receive, manage, and dispose of different types of solid waste. These facilities are carefully engineered to comply with government requirements. And as the name implies, these are facilities where they dig a hole, layer the solid wastes inside, and then cover it.

These facilities are not designed to decay the solid waste and, therefore, can be considered a permanent waste storage site. Landfills have a very negative effect on the environment in the long run, and that is why one of the design considerations for landfills is to mitigate the negative effects that they will have on the environment.

During the design process, one of the first major considerations is the location. It must be far from residential areas and environmentally protected locations, such as reserves or parks. Another design consideration is controlling the landfill byproducts from being able to infiltrate the soil and contaminate groundwater.

In this brief article about the landfill safety checklist, we will be using the various resources from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.K. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as a reference.

In this article, the following points are explained:

1. Common landfill hazards

2. Plans that can control landfill hazards

3. Benefits of a digital checklist

employees use a landfill safety checklist while working in a bulldozer

What are the Hazards Addressed in a Landfill Safety Checklist?

A landfill is a workplace that is very hazardous due to the mere fact that it is a garbage disposal facility. That is why government agencies place strict landfill safety rules for their proper management. Below, we will be discussing the major hazards listed in the landfill safety checklist from EPA and HSE.

Exposure to Landfill Gas

Landfill gasses (LFG) are a major hazard to workers working in a landfill. These gasses can be formed due to the bacterial decomposition of the substances in the landfill, volatilization, and other chemical reactions. Below are the various gas components of LFG and their percentages based on the table from EPA:

  • Methane (45-60%)
  • Carbon Dioxide (40-60%)
  • Nitrogen (2-5%)
  • Oxygen (0.1-1%)
  • Ammonia (0.1-1%)
  • Non-methane Organic Compounds or NMOC (0.01-0.6%)
  • Sulfides (0-1%)
  • Hydrogen (0-0.2%)
  • Carbon Monoxide (0-0.2%)

From the list alone, employees can expect to experience unpleasant odors when working in this environment. Although there are really no severe long-term effects from being exposed to these gasses, it can cause extreme discomfort and trigger severe allergic reactions, especially to those who have respiratory problems.

Explosion and Fire

From the list of landfill gas components we’ve mentioned, methane is produced in the largest quantity. The amount of methane produced poses a very dangerous hazard: explosion. That is why it is included in the landfill safety checklist.

But first, here’s a brief explanation. What are the conditions before an explosion can happen? For gasses, there are lower and upper explosive limits. These limits refer to the boundaries in terms of volume percentage before an explosion can happen.

For methane, the lower explosive limit (LEL) is 5%, and the upper explosive limit (UEL) is 15%. From the chart, we can infer that it is highly unlikely that methane will cause an explosion at the lower limits. But if it is diffused, for example by the wind, there may be spaces that reach the explosive limits and can cause an explosion.

Methane isn’t the only explosive gas produced in a landfill. However, due to their low percentage of production in landfills, it is highly unlikely that these gasses will reach their explosive limits.

Another hazard mentioned in the landfill safety monitor checklist is landfill fires which are mainly caused by spontaneous combustion due to an increase in oxygen levels or ignition sources, such as lighters and cigarettes.

Heavy Machinery

Due to the large volume of wastes managed in landfills, the use of heavy machinery for waste transport and management is unavoidable. Although the usage of heavy machinery increases the efficiency of work, this also creates a hazard to workers.

According to the landfill safety monitor checklist from HSE, there are only a few injuries due to heavy machinery, but it has a high fatality rate. That is why it is important to implement landfill safety rules.

Below are some machines that are used for waste collection and management in landfills:

  • Garbage Collectors
  • Lorries
  • Excavators
  • Fork Lift Trucks
  • Front Loading Shovels
  • Mobile Cranes

What Plans Can Be Implemented to Control Landfill Hazards?

To mitigate the discussed hazards present in landfills, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends various plans in their landfill safety checklists. We will be discussing three of these plans below in detail.

Training Competent Supervisors and Implementing Strict Landfill Safety Rules

The first plan mentioned in the landfill safety checklist is to ensure that the supervisory personnel in charge of the landfills are competent. That is because they play a vital role in reminding their team of how important safety is in their workplace.

For these supervisors to become competent, it is necessary to provide them with adequate training to have attributes fit for leaders, role models, and communicators. According to the HSE, below are these attributes:

  • Open and Honest
  • Professional
  • Approachable
  • Friendly But Firm
  • Calm
  • Organized
  • Empathetic
  • Assertive
  • Polite
  • Committed
  • Patient
  • Enthusiastic
  • Positive
  • Articulate

Aside from that, the training should also include knowledge about safety standards and regulations. Strict landfill safety rules will naturally be integrated into the landfill workplace once the supervisors have enough competency.

Comprehensive Landfill Safety Training for Worker

Once the landfill supervisors finish with their training, workers under their command should also undergo safety training so that they appreciate and follow the strict landfill safety rules. According to the landfill safety checklist, training should include the following:

  • Effective Work Communication
  • Usage of Proper Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Handling and Working with Heavy Machinery
  • General Health and Landfill Safety Training
  • Manual Waste Handling

It is important to note that this is not a one-time training session. There should be refresher sessions every few years to remind workers of mandated safety regulations and updates on any changes.

Regular Landfill Sampling and Measurements

Waste managers recommend using a landfill safety checklist to monitor landfill sampling and measurement of potentially dangerous gas buildup. Through it, levels of the landfill gas components can be measured, recorded, and then interpreted to give an idea of what the current condition of the landfill is.

Below are some sampling and measurement methods used for monitoring:

  • Flux Chamber Testing
  • Plume Monitoring
  • Micrometeorology Measurement
  • Air Dispersion Modeling
  • Surface Emission Monitoring
  • Low Altitude Imaging
  • Aerial Imaging

Workers wear PPE while picking up trash with the garbage truck

What Are the Benefits of a Digital Landfill Safety Checklist

Between explosive gasses and heavy machinery used to transport and separate waste, it goes without saying that working in a landfill is rife with danger. Risks to workers must be mitigated through proper training and protective equipment, but what if there was a way to do so with minimum resources? Unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of the noxious smell that seems to permeate the air at garbage sites, but there is a way to make landfill inspections up to 30-40% faster.

With the Lumiform app, all this and more is possible. For instance:

  • Get real-time updates – Be instantly notified of any issues that arise in the field. As soon as an employee raises an issue, whether that be for high levels of methane gas or improper waste disposal, you’ll get a message alerting you to the problem.
  • Save time – Automatically generated reports save you time by doing the analysis for you. Gone are the days of sitting hunched over endless charts and diagrams trying to make sense of the numbers. Lumiform does it all for you!
  • Comply with regulations – The Lumiform app helps keep your site honest. With the use of a checklist, all steps enforcing the rules and regulations of waste management are accounted for. All your employees have to do is check off the boxes.
  • Improve quality and safety – With Lumiform’s EHS software, you can assign corrective actions to your colleagues, even when you aren’t present on site. Because of this, you can solve problems 4x faster.

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Kids sort through landfill for recyclables
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