The importance of workers’ safety in pay as you throw waste collection: laws and SAR


The study of safety is vital in making pay as you throw waste collection easy. Italian Legislative Decree 81/08: “Consolidation Act on Occupational Health and Safety” establishes that the employer must draw up a Risk Assessment Document (DVR)  that identifies possible risks present at the work site as well prevention measures for workers’ health and safety with the aim of eliminating or, at least, reducing situations of danger”.


The most common risks for workers in PAYT waste collection

Lone working

The Risk Assessment Document identifies a way of working that people operating in sectors of public interest such as maintenance, surveillance and, of course, waste collection are subject to: lone working. This work is carried out in full autonomy, without supervision and isolated from other subjects. Lone working is a critical issue for companies and for their Safety Officers because the worker cannot receive immediate assistance from colleagues in the case of illness, emergency or accident.

Manual handling of loads

Legislative Decree 81/08 defines manual handling of loads as “any transporting or supporting of a load, by one or more workers, including lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving of a load, which, by reason of its characteristics or of unfavourable ergonomic conditions, involves a risk particularly of back injury to workers: ”This risk is frequent in the work of a waste collector, as Inail says in its pamphlet “Safety for operators in the waste collection and urban hygiene sector” (2009). “There are several specific risk factors entailed in the manual handling of loads: loads that are too heavy, difficult to grasp, unstable and not homogeneous or with a content that means that handling takes place in non-optimal conditions (e.g. loads held away from the body to avoid cuts from sharp objects, unsure grip due to the risk of broken shards). Moreover, the risk related to twisting and yanking motions (e.g. throwing the bag into the waste collection vehicle, lifting in confined spaces) should not be overlooked”, underscores Inail. In pay as you throw waste collection, the specific risk of the manual handling of loads has been reduced over time by the introduction of mechanised collection systems; however, “it is still high in all stages of the work and is tending to increase again with the expansion of kerbside waste collection”.

Exposure to electromagnetic waves and Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

Legislative Decree 81/08 regulates and defines workers’ safety and prevention criteria in terms of exposure to electromagnetic fields due to radio frequency. In Attachment XXXVI, the specific absorption rate of energy is called SAR: “This is the averaged value either over the whole body or over small parts of it of the energy absorption rate per unit of mass of body tissue and is expressed in watts per kilogramme (W/kg). Whole-body SAR is a widely accepted quantity for relating adverse thermal effects (health) to radio frequency (RF) exposure. Besides the average whole body SAR, local SAR values are also needed to assess and limit the excessive deposit of energy in small parts of the body resulting from specific exposure conditions such as, for example, exposure to RF with frequencies of just a few MHZ (for example from dielectric heaters) and exposure on the ground close to an “antenna”.

Generic risk (i.e. traffic)

As Inail points out in its pamphlet, traffic is a common generic risk in the pay as you throw waste collection process: “The operating conditions, the lack of maintenance of the machines and vehicles, interference with other traffic and with users are often amplifying factors”. Along with other factors – type of roads, presence of other vehicles or pedestrians, weather conditions – traffic can be the cause of collisions between vehicles or with waste collectors, beside exposing waste collectors to chemical pollutants present in the air.

How risks are usually tackled

Safety measures for waste collectors

In recent years, the waste collection sector has seen the adoption by companies of important technical measures to improve the safety of waste collectors, such as vehicles with the steering wheel on the right to reduce the risk of  the waste collector being knocked down when getting out of the vehicle, the use of hoppers with platform lowered to the height of the loading opening and automatic lifters to load bulky waste.

The RFID Discovery Mobile wristband guarantees waste collectors greater safety: by incorporating a component that signals the presence of a man down, the wearable device can be used as Personal Protection Equipment (PPE); that is, equipment – according to the Consolidated Act 81/08 – “to be worn and kept by the worker in order to protect him/her against one or more risks that could endanger safety or health during work”.


“Ergonomics is a multidisciplinary applied science that deals with the interaction between man and the environment” (Centro Italiano di Ergonomia, Pisa). Specifically, “at the work place, ergonomics deals with the design of spaces, equipment and production processes depending on the specific capacity of the workers. In this sense, the ergonomic approach attempts to optimise interaction between man, machine and environment, modifying the organisation, streamlining the processes and space, improving the postural position and, consequently, reducing mental-physical stress”.

Small and light, comfortable to wear and use, the RFID wristband for pay as you throw waste collection has passed many tests on its ergonomics carried out directly with the waste collectors. Discovery Mobile exploits the waste collectors’ natural gestures without having to change the way they work, respecting ergonomic requirements and representing an absolutely safe device for the waste collector.

SAR certification

The Consolidated Act 81/08 sets the Exposure Limit Values (ELVs) to electromagnetic fields for different intervals of frequencies. In the case of Discovery Mobile, the ELVs are taken into consideration for exposure to electromagnetic fields at frequencies of between 100 kHz and 6 GHz: the maximum exposure limit (averaged) for a period of six minutes is 0.4 W/kg. The tests carried out on the RFID wristband for the pay as you throw system by the Sicom Testing laboratories measured average values of SAR of less than 0.071 W/Kg, certifying the absolute safety of the wearable device.

Discovery Mobile is the certified device that makes pay as you throw easy and protects the safety of the waste collectors that use it.

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