J Occup Environ Hyg. 2023 Mar-Apr;20(3-4):129-135. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2023.2179060. Epub 2023 Mar 15.
In the United States, the majority of waste workers work with solid waste. In solid waste operations, collection, sorting, and disposal can lead to elevated biohazard exposures (e.g., bioaerosols, bloodborne and other pathogens, human and animal excreta). This cross-sectional pilot study aimed to characterize solid waste worker perception of biohazard exposures, as well as worker preparedness and available resources (e.g., access to personal protective equipment, level of training) to address potential biohazard exposures. Three sites were surveyed: (1) a family-owned, small-scale waste disposal facility, (2) a county-level, recycling-only facility, and (3) an industrial-sized, large-scale facility that contains a hauling and landfill division. Survey items characterized occupational biohazards, resources to mitigate and manage those biohazards, and worker perceptions of biohazard exposures. Descriptive statistics were generated. The majority of workers did not report regularly coming into contact with blood, feces, and bodily fluids (79%). As such, less than one-fifth were extremely concerned about potential illness from biological exposures (19%). Yet, most workers surveyed (71%) reported an accidental laceration/cut that would potentially expose workers to biohazards. This study highlights the need for additional research on knowledge of exposure pathways and perceptions of the severity of exposure among this occupational group.