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The Entrepreneur's Guide to Computer Recycling: Basics for starting up a computer recycling business in emerging markets
PC Recycling Guide
Human and Environmental Risk Assessment

Human health and safety

As far as occupational health and safety are concerned, the most important things to know are the potential risks of an activity and how to implement measures controlling and reducing these risks. In a recycling centre, employees are particularly exposed, because of the sometimes hazardous contents of the material they handle. Equipment may contain hazardous substances and metals, as well as toxic gas and dusts. In addition to these risks of exposure, there are those inherent in workshops, where employees have to handle heavy loads and are exposed to machines vibrations and noises. Therefore, important measures must be taken to reduce these risks. The entrepreneur is bound by national and international laws to anticipate and reduce the occupational risks his employees are exposed to.

Minimum protective equipment

Even though manual dismantling operations generate few contaminants likely to be absorbed by the respiratory route, dismantling technicians are advised to wear a mask. Contamination happens mostly indirectly, by ingestion of contaminants present on hands and clothes. Employees must therefore respect the following minimum safety instructions:

  • Wear protection suits, or regularly clean these suits by washing separately;
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke in the workshops;
  • Wash hands before meals and snacks;
  • Avoid nail biting and brush one’s nails regularly;
  • Vacuum the premises to avoid dust accumulation.

Beforehand, when fitting out the premises, the entrepreneur must respect the following rules:

  • Protective equipment must be stored away from contaminants;
  • The screen shredding area must be confined;
  • Sanitary facilities must be provided in the workshops.

Training programme

The recycling centre must work out a training programme that will teach employees to properly identify and handle hazardous materials. Employees must be able to safely handle equipment and materials, to anticipate high-risk situations and to deal with emergency situations. The training centre must define the roles and responsibilities of the employees carrying out activities potentially hazardous to other employees or the environment.

Employees must know the risks they could bring upon the environment in case of mistakes during the handling of hazardous materials (water, energy) as well as the risks to their own health. They must also be reminded of the various types of pollution: visual pollution, noise pollution, odour pollution, etc.

Emergency preparedness training

Employees must be prepared to cope with any kind of emergency situation. For example, they must know fire fighting plans in case of fire or explosion and the contingency plan in case of pollution. The emergency preparation training may include instruction on first-aid measures, safety code and evacuation plan. Safety literature must be displayed or accessible. Technical information must be presented in a way that enables staff members to comply with regulations. For more information, refer to the list of hazardous products in annex.

Environmental protection

ESM Principle

The recycling centre should implement an environmental management system. According to the OECD, Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) is “a scheme for ensuring that wastes and used and scrap materials are managed in a manner that will save natural resources, and protect human health and the environment against adverse effects that may result from such wastes and materials”. For more information, the OECD and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through the Basel Convention, have developed specific work programmes to enhance ESM.

Environmental management system

The entrepreneur who implements environmentally sound practices may apply for the certification of his company, which will then be recognised as environmentally sound.

To obtain a certificate, the enterprise must be able to provide measurable objectives for the continuous improvement of the environmental performance, including a periodic review of the relevance of these objectives. It must also provide regular monitoring of progress towards health, safety and environmental protection objectives, and the collection and evaluation of relevant information regarding the protection of the environment as well as health and safety in the enterprise.

There are several ESM certifications, such as ISO 14001, which is used worldwide, EMAS, which is specific to European countries, and RIOS in the United States.