Electronics are now as much a part of our daily lives as any other consumer product. As each new product comes to the market, our old electronics, spent batteries, and other accessories become electronic waste (e-waste), and head to the waste pile.
Most companies have an area to stockpile equipment and supplies before final disposal. Some companies and public entities even specialize in handling e-waste for re-use and recycling. There are risks to handling e-waste, including physical injuries due to lifting, cuts from sharps, and exposure to hazardous dusts and chemicals that can pose health effects. To minimize injury, it is important to learn how to store, handle, and process e-waste safely.
The first concern with e-waste is potential exposure to chemical dusts and vapors, if the products are damaged or broken apart. Exposures to lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, and flame retardant compounds pose both short and long-term health effects. The risks include damage to the nervous system, reproductive system, birth defects, lung disease, and thyroid problems. In particular, use extra caution with the following equipment types and hazards:
Flame Retardant Dust
|Cathode Ray Tubes
Cathode Ray Tubes
|Circuit Boards||Plastic Cases and Parts|
Always wear your personal protective equipment (PPE) when you work with e-waste:
- Sturdy work gloves protect your hands from cuts and scrapes while you move and store equipment.
- Chemical-resistant disposable gloves prevent skin contact with harmful dusts and chemicals.
- Safety glasses prevent dust and flying objects from damaging your eyes.
- Coveralls protect your skin and clothing.
- Sturdy work boots protect your feet from sharp punctures and heavy objects that might crush your toes.
- Consider using a respirator, depending on the area ventilation and type of operation, to protect against harmful dusts and fumes.
Minimize e-waste dust in the workplace by using good housekeeping practices. Keep the work area clean by storing items properly to minimize breakage or leaking; store batteries in sealed plastic containers and keep equipment neatly stacked or in boxes. Use wet-wipe/wet-mop methods or a vacuum with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to clean equipment and storage areas. Avoid using brooms that can stir up dust into the air. Don’t touch broken glass with your bare hands; be sure to wear gloves and use tools to pick up and dispose of sharp glass and metal.
Use good hygiene practices after you have handled e-waste. Always wash your hands before eating or drinking so that you do not potentially ingest hazardous dusts or chemicals. Change clothes and shower to remove dusts from your hair, skin, and clothing. Change your shoes or leave them outside so that you don’t track contaminants into the office, car, or home.
Use good body postures and lifting techniques when you are working with e-waste. Use carts, dollies, and boxes with handles to move equipment. If you have to lift electronic components, use your leg muscles and keep your back straight. When possible, store materials between shoulder and knee heights to prevent strains caused from reaching too high or too low.
Be sure to review all state and federal laws regarding the handling and disposal of e-waste and other toxic substances. By learning about the types of e-waste and hazards you handle, and by using safe work practices, good housekeeping, and proper storage and handling techniques, you can stay safe and prevent injury while working with e-waste.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations, or standards.