Agricultural Waste

Definition - What does Agricultural Waste mean?

Agricultural waste refers to waste produced from agricultural operations, including waste from farms, poultry houses, and slaughterhouses.

In addition to being potentially damaging to the environment, agricultural waste may expose workers to harmful biological material (biohazards).

Storing agricultural waste can multiply the hazards associated with it since stored waste can release harmful gases.

Safeopedia explains Agricultural Waste

Specific biohazards related to agricultural waste include:

  • Fungi
  • Molds
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Animal-borne diseases (zoonoses)

Removal of waste products such as manure from animal and poultry houses can potentially expose workers to agricultural dusts, resulting in respiratory problems, such as occupational asthma. Exposure to waste-containing pesticides and other agrochemicals poses additional risks. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and personal respiratory equipment (PRE) can protect workers from many types of exposure.

Many agricultural wastes are economically productive resources. Agricultural slurry, for example, can be converted to fertilizer. This incentivizes waste storage as an economic activity. Safety hazards involved in waste storage include exposure to environments containing carbon dioxide (CO2), ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane gas. At unsafe levels, these gases can be toxic, flammable, and potentially explosive. Waste storage environments may also produce low-oxygen environments that can endanger workers who enter without proper protection.

Employers have a duty to provide employees with the equipment and training necessary for safely handling agricultural wastes. Workplaces are required to have first aid supplies available for treating injuries on-site and plans for addressing accidents or spills involving agricultural waste. Workplace risk is also reduced via requirements for a minimum safe distance between worker camps and environments containing agricultural waste.

Agricultural wastes as a hazardous material is addressed as part of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) for Farmers.

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