Waste collection is only one of the many occupations in the U.S. solid waste industry. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most hazardous, exposing workers to many potential risks.
Most serious waste collector injuries happen under two types of circumstances—garbage truck incidents and refuse-related incidents. When you understand the risks, you are well equipped to avoid an accident or illness.
Injuries involving waste vehicles
One obvious vehicle-related risk for garbage collectors is colliding with another vehicle. Spending many hours riding in or on your work truck increases the odds of experiencing an on-the-job crash.
Severe injury or death is also a risk when waste collectors are struck by or run over by a work vehicle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites several incidents in which waste workers died when their trucks ran over them. It also provides best practices for avoiding accidents.
Injuries involving garbage
Waste collectors handle the refuse produced in the homes and businesses of thousands or more. You have no idea what the trash bags you collect contain. You risk injury from broken glass, jagged metal and many other dangerous items each time you pick up a garbage bag or empty a can.
Garbage workers risk exposure to hazardous substances and materials as well. On rare occasions, they have even suffered exposure to biological or radioactive waste. Specific risks include:
- Stuck by contaminated or rusty syringes
- Contact with chemicals (bleach, battery acid, etc.)
- Contact with biological waste (wipes, bed sheets, infected clothing, etc.)
- Contact with disease-ridden or decomposing pests (mice, bugs, rats, etc.)
Under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, waste workers have the right to file a claim for a work-related illness or injury. If you have questions about workers’ compensation, including your benefits rights, consider learning more about compensable injuries.