10 Most Common Injuries in the Waste Management Sector

Waste management is a vital part of our lives and one which helps to keep our homes free from pests and disease. Employment within the waste management sector is usually secure and well paid, however, it’s not without its risks.

Personal injury solicitors have revealed that a significant number of the claims that they handle are on behalf of those working in waste management. So, just how dangerous is the job?

Keep reading to find out the 10 most common injuries in the waste management sector, and what they may mean for employees.

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1. Cuts and Abrasions

Waste management employees spend a lot of their time handling unwieldy wheely bins and guiding them into large metal trucks. Although these employees wear gloves and other protective clothing, having to work quickly in order to meet the demands of their schedules means that they are often subject to cuts, bruises and abrasions. While these are usually not serious, a number of these injuries will require a visit to A&E.

2. Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders are increasingly common among those working in the waste management industry; particularly back problems due to repeated bending and lifting.  In some cases, these injuries can be life changing and can result in early retirement in instances where the condition means that the employee is no longer able to do the job.

3. Skin Irritation

The official description of waste is ‘a composite mixture of different substances including endotoxins, organic dust and bio-aerosol stuffed with micro-organisms, and various toxic organic and inorganic chemicals’. This goes to show that waste is made up of all sorts of nasties which can cause skin irritations. Although not life threatening, these can certainly be unpleasant and can cause itching and soreness when waste employees come into contact with them.

4. Lung Conditions

A more serious byproduct of working in waste management is that of respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).  While these conditions can be managed to a certain extent, they are not curable and, particularly in the case of COPD, will progressively become worse and result in early death.

5. Being hit by a Motorist

Waste management employees are often working on busy streets and, because they tend to do their rounds early in the morning, they may be working in the dark during the winter. These conditions mean that bin men are sometimes at risk of being hit by motorists as they go about their work.

In 2018, a waste management employee in Slough was signed off work for eight weeks after being hit by a motorist who had not properly cleaned snow and ice from their windscreen.

6. Slips and Trips

Hard working waste management employees are out and about in all kinds of weather and, sometimes even the sturdiest, grippiest boots are no match for pavements and roads made slick by snow and ice. Every year, a large number of bin men suffer a form of injury through slipping or tripping during the course of their work.

7. Bacteremia

A less common injury, but a serious one nonetheless, is bacteremia. This is a dangerous infection which is caused by coming into contact with used hypodermic needles which have been carelessly disposed of.

Those suffering from this disease face a long recovery process and, often, early retirement. In Sussex in 2012, two binmen had their hands pierced by needles that had been incorrectly disposed of and had to face. As a result, they had to go through 6 months of medical checks.

Non-Hazardous and Hazardous Pharmaceutical Waste

8.  Falling Objects

Falling objects can be a serious concern for bin men – both that of objects falling from their lorries and other factors from their surroundings. One such incident ended in tragedy in 2013 when a 55-year-old waste management worker was killed after being hit by a telegraph pole which his lorry had collided with. Poor visibility can often mean that waste workers are vulnerable to injury from falling objects.

9. Stress and Anxiety

Very few jobs can be considered stress-free, and waste management certainly isn’t one of them. As well as being required to stock to tight schedules on often understaffed routes, bin men also often have to contend with disgruntled customers taking their frustrations out on them. These issues can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression which can also have a knock-on effect on physical health.

10. Poor Weather Conditions

We’ve already mentioned weather earlier in this article as, if there’s one thing certain about the weather is that it cannot always be predicted accurately. While this final piece is, thankfully, not a hugely common one, it is nonetheless a risk.

In 2019, a California garbage truck was struck not once, but twice by lightning, setting the truck on fire. Happily, nobody was injured in the incident but stories like this one are a very real reminder of just how dangerous weather systems can be for the humble waste management worker.

Personal Injuries in the Waste Management Sector Are Rife

Without waste management employees, our lives would be constantly at risk of disease, not to mention bad smells. As such, it’s incredibly important that councils ensure that working conditions for these employees are as safe as possible, as well as taking the time to ensure your disposing of your waste correctly. in addition to protecting employee health, putting stringent measures in place for their safety will ensure the smooth running of the services and will help with retention of valued staff members.

About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the CEO of BioEnergy Consult, and an international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biogas technology, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. Salman has participated in numerous national and international conferences all over the world. He is a prolific environmental journalist, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. In addition, he is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability through his blogs and portals. Salman can be reached at salman@bioenergyconsult.com or salman@cleantechloops.com.
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