Employers can protect trash collection workers by helping them understand common hazards and providing appropriate safety training and equipment. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that garbage truck drivers and collection workers account for only 46% of industry employees, yet these workers were the victims of approximately 75% of the industry’s occupational injuries and illnesses. Being struck by objects, vehicles, and equipment and heavy lifting caused the greatest number of injuries.
To safeguard employees who are working on trash collection vehicles, NIOSH suggests the following:
• Develop a comprehensive safety and health program that includes hazard identification and controls
• Promote a positive safety culture that begins with top management by showing workers that company leaders are focused on safety
• Create safety and health committees that include both management and employee representatives
• Comply with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) industry standards
• Protect workers by using automatic collection vehicles, when possible
• Provide lifting equipment to minimize overexertion
• During waste collection, evaluate workplace safety and manage identified hazards
• Make sure all new employees complete comprehensive health and safety training
• Train workers on safety practices specific to their job tasks
• Repeat safety trainings regularly
According to the Environmental and Occupational Health Surveillance Program (EOHS) in New Jersey, collection workers can reduce injuries by staying alert, watching out for cars, and being constantly aware of the location of the collection truck. Employees should avoid: standing behind the truck when it is in reverse, riding on the truck at speeds greater than 10 miles per hour, and standing on the riding step or platform when the vehicle is moving backwards. During compacting, workers can protect themselves by standing to the side of the truck. They should also stand clear of dumpsters and help drivers see them by wearing light or brightly colored clothing and reflective traffic safety vests. Slip-resistant footwear can help reduce slips and falls from riding steps.
EOHS states that drivers can also help protect collection workers by driving safely, ensuring lights and backup beepers work properly, moving the truck only when collectors can be seen, and parking in the direction of traffic on the same side of the road as trash. When backing up, drivers should ensure no one is riding on the step or platform, use a spotter, and signal all collectors that they are about to reverse. Drivers can also help reduce injuries by driving slower than 10 miles per hour whenever workers are riding on the step or platform.
Protect drivers and trash collectors and help reduce risk by stressing the importance of safety, and providing the training and equipment needed to reduce injuries.