Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Green Job Hazards

Organic Materials (Food Waste, Yard Trimmings, Wood Waste)

Worker Fatalities

  • Two workers at a composting facility died due to confined space hazards while clearing a drainage pipe.

  • A worker lost consciousness, collapsed and died, after adding sodium hydrogen sulfide to waste water, causing a major release of hydrogen sulfide gas. Coworkers who went to investigate could have been victims too, if they hadn't recognized the rotten egg odor and immediately evacuated.

Composting and other activities to recycle organic material can create hazardous environments which can be fatal to workers who are not aware of the potential dangers. In particular, composting facilities often have confined space hazards, which may have respiratory hazards such as hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide gases, or other gases that may displace the oxygen in the area. Workers must have proper training and permits before entering these potentially hazardous atmospheres. The links in the hazard section below provide more information on confined space hazards and precautions, as well as other hazards that may be present during operations to recycle organic materials.

Hazards and Precautions

Occupational health concerns

Worker Fatalities

  • Two workers at a composting facility died due to confined space hazards while clearing a drainage pipe.

  • A worker lost consciousness, collapsed and died, after adding sodium hydrogen sulfide to waste water, causing a major release of hydrogen sulfide gas. Coworkers who went to investigate could have been victims too, if they hadn't recognized the rotten egg odor and immediately evacuated.

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