Occupational hygiene in MRFs: Is HSE/HSL fit for purpose?

Occupational hygiene implications of processing waste at Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs): Exposure to bio-aerosol and dust is the title of the latest HSE announcement, introducing a detailed report of endotoxin and bacterial/fungal airborne contaminants at MRF plants.

The report, by HSL, makes interesting reading.

This is only on piece of work among many on this subject that might be used to extrapolate to other waste sector exposures. Regrettably, as an internal HLL/HSE it has not been subject to peer review, yet will be handed down ex-Cathedra, as beyond reproach.

The microbiological methods used are, at best, highly suspect. I have dealt with HSL reports, including one occasion where one of these was placed before the Court. It was hopeless. It involved the use of DNA probes to identify bacterial isolates and the results were riddled with student errors, and worse. It was obvious then, and perhaps now, that the methodology – more specifically  the probes used for PCR – is inappropriate for the task and there is no check on the results obtained using any alternate or classical bacteriological approach to identification.

I guess they are dealing with technologies and subjects about which they have inadequate knowledge.

In the present report the identification of fungal isolates was far less detailed, based upon morphology alone. Nothing wrong with that. But the many spelling errors in the data tables and elsewhere, or the names of bacteria and fungi suggest that the authors are either simply slap dash in their work, or simply incompetent.

If the authors cannot spell the names of the microorganisms properly, not once as a simple typographical error but repeatedly throughout their report, then I would suggest that its entire content should be taken with a big pinch of salt.

The document is riddled with errors. Is that what we pay taxes for?

It has been an obviously intentional policy of HSE/HSL to make themselves largely unavailable. Since the Contact Us, Complaints page on the HSL web pages links only to the HSE Mythbusters Panel I have reported the matter there. Perhaps they will review the report and pour scorn on the authors as they manage to do on others in their Mythbusters reports. But somehow, I suspect it will simply be buried. In many ways, that may be the best place for it.





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