Warrens Emerald Biogas has launched a new food waste safety campaign to shine a light on its keyworkers and the hazardous jobs they do in tackling food waste.
The campaign features online safety tips and resources to help keep people and the environments in which they work, safe and healthy.
In recent weeks, food waste has become public enemy number one and an unintended consequence of stockpiling it during the coronavirus crisis has led to an increase in avoidable waste.
As a result, keyworkers at Warrens Emerald Biogas have been tackling a mountain of food waste every day.
Jamie Burns, HSEQ Manager at the Newton Aycliffe plant in County Durham, said: “At Warrens’ anaerobic digestion plant, we have already recycled more than 22,000 tonnes of food waste in the first quarter of this year. On a daily basis, this includes recycling food waste from local authorities, schools and businesses and converting it into green energy.
“The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the importance of keeping everyone safe and our keyworkers have shown an incredible response during the Covid-19 pandemic. Their outstanding effort to keep our essential services running deserves to be celebrated.
“Our new campaign shines a light on the jobs our key workers do for everyone’s safety and highlights their dedication and commitment during this difficult time.
“The workers are not only under pressure to tackle the growing food waste mountain, but also deal with the health and safety hazards that come with it.
“Like many other sites the number one hazard on our site is workplace transport, especially with the large waste vehicles we receive, but there are many other unseen dangers for our key workers too.”
Jamie explained that when food waste is anaerobically digested, the biogas produced is primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide, with lesser amounts of hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, and other gases. Each of these gases has safety issues.
He added: “Biogas risks include explosion, asphyxiation, and hydrogen sulphide poisoning. Due to these safety risks on site, we have a dedicated team of engineers and technical monitoring equipment which keep the site running safely, and all our operational workers and contractors are trained and issued with gas monitors.
“The food waste that is delivered can contain all sorts of horrible pathogens such as e. Coli and Salmonella which is controlled though pasteurisation. This is the process of heating up the food wastes to 72 Celsius killing off these diseases.
“Where there is a plentiful food source, there is also a risk of leptospirosis which may be found in the urine of rats.
“Good hygiene has always been paramount on the site and in the food waste industry in general, but the spread of coronavirus has now given the team something else to keep in mind.”
The team recently ran a campaign as part of its continual awareness training programme to ensure site workers remained vigilant to all the risks and continue to adopt good hygiene measures at work and at home.
Jamie said: “The culture at Warrens Emerald Biogas is on learning and engagement. Everyone no matter who they are on site is given the opportunity and is encouraged by management to voice any concerns or ideas they have to make improvements to the site’s processes.
“This is promoted in many ways, including a weekly safety engagement meeting and the use of our own internal reporting systems where an Ace playing card is used to flag any dangers we spot.”
Even with the coronavirus and social distancing measures, the team continues to ensure the continual professional development of all of its workforce. This has been completed using online health and safety training.
Jamie said: “Our managers have reduced the number of people training to shifts rather than the full team. While this does take slightly longer to capture everyone on site, it ensures social distancing can be maintained.
“Training has also been completed which includes ensuring workers are aware of the site’s waste management and waste streams.”