Workers in the sanitation industry who ride refuse collection trucks or operate compaction equipment have a higher risk of suffering serious or fatal injuries. Exposure to hazardous substances, equipment malfunctions, and falling off of equipment, becoming entrapped, or getting run over are serious threats in this profession. Employers have a duty to minimize risks, including promoting proper safety practices, repairing equipment, or taking defective vehicles out of service to prevent injuries. Clean-up crews who are injured on-the-job are entitled to workmans’ comp.
Sanitation is a Risky Profession
Collecting refuse and recyclable materials is hazardous in a variety of ways. Workers can be exposed to dangerous debris and chemicals that are thrown away in the garbage they collect.
People on clean-up or collection crews are at risk of getting hit by other motorists who attempt to pass garbage trucks while workers load up trash. Many workers are also struck or run over by refuse collection trucks. The CDC reports that 67% of refuse collection fatalities are vehicle-related. About 36% of vehicle-related deaths happen when people fall off of collection trucks or are struck or run over by refuse vehicles. About 18% of fatalities happen when a refuse truck is backing up.
When a truck or compactor has mechanical problems, the risk of injury increases for workers who might suffer lacerations, fractures and in severe cases, severed limbs.
Icy conditions, spilled oil, chemicals or debris can cause workers to slip and fall while out on the road. But, back at the garage the buildup of oil and liquids that are not promptly cleaned up can cause workers to fall, too.
Safety Standards for Mobile Refuse Collection and Compaction Equipment
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has published standards for collection crews to help prevent injuries. ANSI recommends that:
- Workers should only ride in the truck’s cab or on specifically designed steps.
- Riders should stay inside the truck cab until it comes to a complete stop.
- Riders should not ride on steps while the truck is backing up, traveling more than two-tenths of a mile or traveling more than 10 miles per hour.
- Riding steps should have a slip-resistant and self-cleaning surface that is at least 220 square inches and be able to support 500 pounds.
- Trucks should be equipped with an audible warning device that is activated when the truck moves in reverse.
- The driver and ground workers maintain visual contact when working close to the truck.