Hygiene for waste handlers

Ian Blenkharn and Blenkharn Environmental have extensive experience in hygiene management, from the high risk clinical or healthcare environment, though a diversity of occupational environments from the medical and other laboratories to the manufacturing and engineering sectors, to the equally high risk world of waste management. This compliments our more general waste audit services, and more specific services that address the risks of, and the remedies for, sharps injury and blood and bloodstained body fluid exposures.Safety hierarchy

Hygiene risks for waste handlers are a particular concern that is too often overlooked. Whether the hospital ancillary worker or roundsman collecting clinical and related wastes from producer sites, to waste handlers dealing with wastes at a treatment facility, each will face particular (and sometimes different) patterns of risk and exposure.

Sharps injury is a particular, life-threatening and generally well-recognized risk but the working practice of all of those involved in the disposal chain, from the point of arising to final disposal, may be less than adequate. Sadly, the impact of those sloppy practices may not immediately be seen, affecting only those further down the disposal chain who may be face a heightened risk due to the failures of others.

In the waste management sector, PPE is widely regarded as the primary, perhaps sole, means of protection though this is the lowest pint in the hierarchy of safety control. Tight margins and workload pressures, lack of training and supervision, and ignorance of the risks each conspire to lessen the effectiveness of PPE use.

For those dealing with clinical and related biohazardous wastes, elimination and substitution are unrealistic control measures. Packaging and containment receive little attention, but these engineering and administrative controls are of great importance. There is almost always a better Contaminated eurocartway and a detailed review of working practice might identify safer working practices that can generally be assimilated with lean performance – safe need not mean slow!

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Contain risk at source
  • Remove employee from risk
  • Reduce exposure to risk by safe working systems/practices
  • Warning signals
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Discipline/Supervision


A comprehensive safety review cannot be achieved without extensive observation and discussion with all of those involved at each stage of the process. Staff will generally be aware of, at least some of, the more hazardous procedures and practices though may have become over-familiar and standards of performance, including management performance, will be lax. Opportunities for revision of working practices, that for waste management operations may commence at or even before initial disposal of waste items, coupled with a structured approach to training of staff at all levels provides opportunity to reduce adverse incidents and improve accident records. With fewer RIDDOR-reportable incidents and better accident and incident record, staff welfare is improved with fewer lost hours and improved staff retention.

Common problems include packaging errors and the inappropriate use of the available waste containers, transport issues – roundsman generally have limited or non-existent hygiene facilities – and more general manual handling of wastes, the use of automated tipping equipment including maintenance and repair interventions, splash exposures and the secondary contamination of the work environment. This is a particularly difficult issue that occurs generally though poor standards of PPE use and personal hygiene failures that result in contamination of base clothing, of door handles and other ‘safe’ surfaces, of taps and wash basins, and of items within office and restroom areas.


Producers and contractors

Many hazards arise as a consequence of producer errors. We can extend our services to include producer audit and assessment, and in support of producer training of healthcare professionals, ancillary workers and managers. Additionally, we offer support at the interface between producer and their own cleaning and other contractors. The ultimate goal will be an improved standard of safety for all concerned, often with improved efficiency and concomitant reducing in overheads.

The complexity of current service provision in the modern national Health Service now involves additional contractors for cleaning and porting services, and our work will specifically examine the unified standards of operation and safety management, of first aid and occupational health services, and of incident reporting etc, between producer and contractors.

This work often identifies gaps in standards of performance with confusing and confused lines of reporting that serve of obfuscate effective reporting of safety issues that can continue to occur without adequate investigation or review.


Beyond clinical wastes

Elsewhere, waste handlers will be similarly exposed to biohazardous wastes and at risk of infection remains high. Whether handling discarded drug litter, animal waste, food or other household refuse items or recyclables, the maintenance of an adequate standard of personal hygiene is essential. Where PPE use is inadequate, or simply used improperly – perhaps stowed in the vehicle cab, or used and removed without provision of any additional hand hygiene option – risks will be increased. With long duty hours, a vehicle cab becomes a rest room with refreshments consumed in an area contaminated by PPE stowage, soiled hands and clothing, and paperwork items that may be splashed and splattered by the wastes to which they relate.



Blenkharn Environmental offer comprehensive tailored waste audit services to address compliance matters and more general staff welfare, safety and efficiency issues.

Audit might be condensed to a single day though this will of necessity focus only on a limited range of key issues. Audit of more extensive operations, of multi-site operations, or of operations operating a complex shift system will be necessarily more time consuming though we will in all cases agree in advance a fixed scope and schedule of works, a timeline for completion and fixed cost.

  • Separation, avoidance
  • Packaging, containment
  • Automation, tools & techniques
  • PPE, hygiene, workwear
  • Hygiene facilities
  • Spill management
  • First aid, occupational health services & emergency healthcare provision
  • Training & reinforcement
  • Layout & designblenkharn env cert
  • Audit & assessment


Sharps safety will often be a particular concern, and we excel in our approach to sharps awareness training for ancillary staff and waste handlers and others working outside the healthcare environments.

Audit may be combined with formal assessment or testing of hygiene standards, to include if appropriate our unique assay for blood contamination that can identify even trace contamination of blood even in circumstances where this is masked by more general soiling.


Training and education

Training and education together with effective supervision, regular reinforcement of training, and effective management control, are key areas that too often are overlooked. Perhaps seen as an avoidable expense, particularly with a highly mobile workforce and high staff turn-over or reliance of agency staff, training and education are essential tools in safety management.

We have a range of techniques for training, ranging from short ‘toolbox talks’ to make extensive training programmes supplemented by brochures and posters etc. Crucially, we integrate training with audit and assay techniques that provide an unequivocal record of hygiene deficiencies and robust reinforcement of core training.


Adding value

Blenkharn Environmental seeks to add value at every stage of our work. We provide extensive services to audit, investigate and improve safety standards for all of those involved in the generation, transport and disposal of biohazardous wastes, and offer a tailored training programme for key staff groups and employers.

Blenkharn Environmental has a proven track record in quality research and peer-reviewed publication in the relevant medical and scientific journals. Adding further value our work in hygiene and safety investigation and audit, and review of cradle to grave waste management performance, will often provide opportunities for related research studies. This research can lead to improved interventions that raise the profile of the organisation, and with the involvement of local management of safety supervisors can provide opportunity for professional and career development though publication of results. Performed in close collaboration with your own selected staff, this approach encourages engagement and promotes further and on-going training delivered by highly motivated and properly trained staff. Publication stands as a testimonial to the highest standards of your own operations, and may be used in further in-house training and to engage with your client base, demonstrating quite clearly your commitment to safety and to add value to the services that you offer.


Contact us

For a comprehensive list of the services that are available from Blenkharn Environmental please click here, or call to discuss your exact requirements and to tailor an audit, review and training programme to meet your exact needs.

All services are individually tailored to client needs, as befits this high quality fully research-driven and science-led consultancy, with agreed delivery and completion dates.



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