Case study

Back to subjects     Back to universities

Better understanding of the risks of exposure to bioaerosols leads to improved working conditions in the organic waste industry

Research identifies gaps in knowledge required to identify potential risks arising from exposure to bioaerosols

The composting sector has experienced rapid recent growth as the separation of biodegradable waste from Municipal Solid Waste has become an increasingly important component of developing sustainable waste strategies. The Health and Safety Executive has estimated that in 2006, across the UK there were more than 175,000 workers employed in the waste and recycling services industry. However, the process of separating and treating waste creates exposure to potentially hazardous bioaerosols which may have deleterious impacts on workers’ health.

Research undertaken at Cardiff Metropolitan University has identified gaps in the knowledge and understanding required to effectively assess and manage the potential risks arising from workers’ exposure to bioaerosols. The research informed policy linked to improving the health and well-being of composting workers, specifically the reduction of the risk of harm, improved working conditions and enhanced prevention of illness and disease.

Knowledge gained as a result of the research undertaken also resulted in major contributions to a guidance document for the organics sector. Published in 2012, The Health and Safety at Composting Sites: A Guide for Site Managers “aims to impart sound practical advice regarding occupational health and safety.”

“It is hoped the research will raise awareness and change working practises within the composting industry and beyond, especially in relation to the impact that poor practises have on operator exposure to bioaerosols in this working environment.” Spokesman for the British Occupational Hygiene Society, commenting on the research undertaken.

Find out more