Rubbish collection can be a hazardous job, with a high likelihood of injury faced by employees.
Every day, waste removal workers have to deal with hazards such as vermin, exposure to toxins and heavy bin lifting. They also have to deal with the general stress of working in an environment filled with unpleasant smells and surfaces.
It can also be physically demanding and if workers do not take care of their physical stance or do not have the appropriate safeguards in place while lifting things or balancing on ladders, the risk of ergonomic injuries like back sprains and strains is high.
Thus, there is a clear need to examine all of these problems and safeguard the people in this profession. Here are some of the issues that waste management professionals face daily, as well as tips on how to manage or avoid them:
1. Improper lifting techniques
Handling heavy objects every day without proper posture or technique can lead to hernias, back strains and sprains, spinal damage and several other illnesses and injuries.
Tip: Suitable safe lifting training should be given to all waste collection employees involved in lifting, including the regular demonstration of lifting techniques and self-care tips for injury as needed.
2. Tiredness and fatigueness
Suitable training in associated factors can equip waste collection workers with the tools to do their job better. For instance, it can help them be better attuned to changes in the weather that might make surfaces more slippery to move about more carefully.
They could also be more aware of their surroundings and avoid ‘attention blindness’, which is a common phenomenon in professions where encountering wet floors and slippery surfaces as a part of daily life.
If the waste removal workers feel fatigued, they may end up lifting and tipping waste bins without proper lifting techniques, which could lead to injury.
Tip: By training workers to recognise when they feel tired or rushing their job, they can pause and reset for a bit before resuming the correct procedures. Providing mechanical bin lifters can make their jobs a lot more comfortable.
3. Tripping and falling
Waste removal workers have to do their job all year round, which means they need to battle the elements and work on slippery roads. This often leads to slips, trips and falls that can potentially cause serious injuries.
Falls, in fact, are one of the most common reasons for on-the-job deaths among workers. Thus, proper footwear is a must for waste removal workers, as non-slip footwear provides the necessary grip for surfaces like a patch of ice.
Tip: They should also be mindful of the surfaces they handle or step on, such as ladders or running boards, to ensure that they are not wet or slippery.
Floor cleanliness is vital and spills should be mopped up immediately. Use of ‘wet floor’ signs can also help here.
4. Poor hand safety
Without protective gloves, a waste removal worker has to lift heavy bins that may slip from their hands owing to leakage from inside or because of dew or rain.
Trying to catch a slipping waste bin requires sudden movements that could lead to hernias or back sprains, especially if the bin is large and heavy.
Tip: Protective gloves provide the necessary grip to lift objects and set them down where needed without the risk of slipping. Gloves also help to guard the hands against cuts or wounds from contact with abrasive or corrosive substances.
Moreover, the gloves should be replaced at regular intervals as they get worn out or damaged. Full protective apparel should be provided for those who are regularly exposed to toxic or otherwise hazardous substances.