The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued two new educational resources on protecting workers from mercury exposure while crushing and recycling fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, says OSHA, but the shift to energy-saving bulbs, which contain mercury, calls for more attention to workers who handle, dispose of, and recycle used fluorescent bulbs.
The OSHA fact sheet explains how workers may be exposed, what kinds of engineering controls and personal protective equipment they need, and how to use these controls and equipment properly. In addition, a new OSHA Quick Card provides information on how to properly clean up accidentally broken fluorescent bulbs to minimize workers' exposures to mercury.
Fluorescent bulbs that are broken accidentally or crushed as part of the routine disposal of recycling process can release mercury and may expose workers. Depending on the duration and level of exposure, mercury can cause nervous system disorders such as tremors, kidney problems, and damage to unborn children.