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Waste Management and Recycling

Safe At Work Ontario

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.


Worker injury rates arising from recycling and waste management are increasing in industrial workplaces. In health care workplaces, worker exposure to hazardous drugs and waste from hazardous drugs is also increasing.

Workers exposed to hazards arising from work involving recycling and waste management are at risk of serious injury and illness.

In 2011, the injury rate increased by almost 13 per cent from 2010 for industrial workers involved in these activities, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Employers are subject to a range of duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. For example, they are responsible for protecting workers from any work-related hazards, including hazards arising from recycling and waste management. Employers with more than five workers must prepare and review annually a written occupational health and safety policy and establish effective health and safety programs to implement that policy. The program should include hazard recognition and controls that reduce occupational injuries and illnesses and foster health and safety for workers.

In some health care and other workplaces, handling of biomedical waste (e.g., waste produced from the use of drugs) is an ongoing concern because of potential contamination by infectious agents. Workers may be exposed to hazards at all stages in the preparation, administration and waste management of hazardous drugs.

Hazards may also exist in industrial workplaces where waste or material for recycling is handled. These can involve:

  • unsafe use of cranes and other lifting devices that could result in workers being struck by the equipment or waste loads
  • improper material handling practices that cause musculoskeletal disorders
  • uneven surfaces or debris or spills that could result in workers slipping, tripping or falling
  • unsafe operation of mobile material handling equipment or other vehicles that could result in other workers in the workplace/yard being struck
  • exposure to hazards such as noise, silica, asbestos and dust that could lead to occupational illnesses
  • unguarded equipment and/or failure to lock out and block equipment for maintenance or inspection activities that could lead to lacerations, amputations and or crushing injuries to workers

In all workplaces, employers and other workplace parties must comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

Some of the general duties of workplace parties include:


  • Take all reasonable precautions to protect workers from exposure to hazards in their work, such as hazards arising from the handling and processing of recycling and waste material. Effective health and safety programs to be developed by employers should include:
    • assessing hazards and risk of worker exposure
    • proper use of engineering controls
    • proper use and maintenance of equipment
    • measures and procedures for the safe handling of material
    • worker training concerning hazards involved in handling waste and recycling materials
    • proper use and cleaning of personal protective equipment
    • emergency procedures such as spill response.
  • In workplaces regulated by the Health Care and Residential Facilities Regulation, employers must develop written measures and procedures for the protection of workers in consultation with the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or health and safety representative (HSR).


  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers
  • where prescribed, provide workers with written instructions regarding the measures and procedures to be taken for the protection of workers, including measures and procedures relating to the use of any equipment, protective devices or clothing
  • advise workers of any potential or actual health and safety dangers the supervisor knows about


  • report to your supervisor or employer any hazards you know of, including thoses related to hazards arising from infections in health care workplaces, as well as any contraventions of the OHSA and its regulations
  • comply with the OHSA and its regulations
  • use any personal protective equipment, devices or clothing required by your employer

For more information

Toll-free number

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals.

Call between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for general inquiries about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.