Trash collectors help keep our homes, places of business, and entire city clean. Waste collectors handle our garbage, recycling, and heavy trash, doing lots of heavy lifting and riding on and in large commercial vehicles. These workers have much more dangerous jobs than most people realize. The companies that employ trash collectors must provide them with appropriate personal protective equipment, such as long pants and gloves, so they can protect their bodies from everything they come into contact with on the job. However, even if all safety measures are adhered to and PPE is worn, there are still a variety of workplace injuries affecting trash collectors.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that incidence rates of work-related injuries and illnesses for solid waste collection workers in 2020 appeared to improve, the rate was still 5.2 total cases per 100 full-time workers, down from the previous year’s 5.9. Some say this is due in part to fewer vehicles being on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drivers must watch out for garbage trucks, understanding that workers are likely present in, on, and near the vehicles. They should approach the vehicles slowly and look out for waste collecting workers. Don’t honk your horn or try to rush around these trucks when workers are doing their jobs.
Seven Hazards of Waste Collection
The vast majority of hazards faced on the job by trash collectors come from the public and what they put in their garbage and recycling bags and cans. People need to be more considerate toward those who help them keep their homes, offices, and other locations around Houston clean and safe. The most common injuries related to garbage collection include head injuries, cuts and lacerations, crush injuries, back injuries, and muscle strain. The following hazards contribute to workplace injuries affecting trash collectors:
- Needles – Used hypodermic needles and other biological hazards are often found in trashcans. Collectors can come into contact or be stuck by these needles and suffer from a variety of health problems, such as being exposed to hepatitis and HIV. Needles, syringes, EpiPens, and other sharp items should not be thrown away with regular trash or recycling.
- Hazardous Materials – Bleach, batteries, kerosene, gasoline, pool chemicals, and other such corrosive, flammable, poisonous, or otherwise chemically reactive items thrown away in regular trash or recycling bins can cause serious harm to those collecting the bins. These chemicals can even cause a trash truck to catch on fire, endangering everyone in, on, and around the vehicle.
- Pedestrian Accidents – When trash collectors work in our neighborhoods and go along commercial roads, they have to move about alongside other motorists to do their jobs. While many try to pick up trash and recycling on the same side of the road as the garbage truck, crossing the street can happen – and, even if not, if a driver is distracted, they can hit a worker anyway.
- Lifting – The average weight of a garbage can is 16.5 pounds, with a maximum weight of up to 86 pounds depending upon what’s placed inside of them. The heavier the load to life, the greater the risk of a worker sustaining an on-the-job injury. Since trash collectors pick up hundreds, if not thousands, of bags and cans per shift, this can cause repetitive stress injuries, muscle strain in the back, shoulders, hips, and more, and fatigue.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls – Garbagemen jump on and off their trucks hundreds of times per day, and can slip while doing so, causing ankle injuries and leg injuries – even fractures.
- Weather – In Houston, we have severe heat for much of the year and also heavy rains and flooding, often accompanied by forceful gusts of wind. Both of these types of severe weather can cause problems for trash collectors and garbage truck drivers.
- Heavy Equipment – Many garbage trucks now have hydraulic arms to empty trash containers into the trucks; however, those arms pose risks to workers. Trash collectors can be struck by or suffer a crush injury caused by these arms, compaction equipment in the vehicle, and other aspects connected to the operation of heavy equipment.
Houston Workplace Injury Lawyers
Our local workers who collect trash and solid waste perform an essential service to the Houston community. Trash collectors perform their jobs no matter the weather, and they are susceptible to many kinds of work-related accidents and injuries. Whether you work for a local government or a private solid waste company, you have a physically demanding job that leaves you susceptible to occupational illness and injury.
Our attorneys can discuss how Texas law applies to your circumstances and use our knowledge to help you get the financial compensation you deserve. If you have a valid injury claim, we can help you work through the legal processes necessary while you focus on your medical recovery. For more information on how Adame Garza can help, contact us.