Garbage Collection: Occupational risks.

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What are the dangers of collecting garbage by workers? The potential for injury, infection, poisoning, burns or respiratory damage is high and unavoidable in many cases. Sanitation workers should wear long pants, long sleeves, work gloves and heavy boots in all weather to combat the danger and avoid injury.

Garbage collectors never know what hazardous materials and foraging animals they may come across in the course of their duty. There are countless ways to be injured on the job and all manner of toxic materials in the trash that garbage men carry and transport every day. It is important to know what to look out for before beginning your day’s work.

Lifting & Falls
Lifting heavy objects repeatedly can result in spinal damage, hernias or any number of physical injuries. Proper lifting techniques help to reduce the danger, as does the practice of asking a fellow trash collector for help when lifting a particularly heavy or awkward item.

Weather is often the cause of falls and the physical damage they inflict. Garbage collectors come across rain and high winds often and must cope with the slick and hazardous conditions they can create.

Hazardous Materials
Garbage contains every type of hazardous material imaginable from battery acid to bleach, from pesticides to hypodermic needles. Even radioactive waste material has reportedly been found in normal residential trash from time to time. The potential for injury, infection, poisoning, burns or respiratory damage is high and unavoidable in many cases. Sanitation workers should wear long pants, long sleeves, work gloves and heavy boots in all weather to combat the danger and avoid injury.

Dangerous Objects
Dangerous materials like broken glass and light bulbs are a common cause of injury for sanitation workers, according to the New York City Department of Sanitation. The broken shards are typically placed into plastic garbage bags, which are then lifted and carried to the truck for removal. During lifting or moving, glass or metal blades can cut the hands or body of a garbage collector and result in serious injury.

Pests
Trash is often filled with vermin such as rats and mice, roaches and other foraging pests. Birds, raccoons and even the occasional bear will dip into the trash whenever possible for a quick and easy meal. Contact with living rodents can result in bites, rabies and other diseases. Even contact with dead rodents can result in diseases like rat-bite fever, which causes fever, skin lesions and flu-like symptoms.

Vehicles
Although they may not occur to many as an obvious danger for garbage collectors, vehicle collisions are the most common cause of injury. Garbage collectors often hang suspended from the sides or rear of garbage trucks, walk in and out of traffic regularly, and ride outside the Truck from stop to stop to cut down on the time required to climb into and out of the cab repeatedly. According to research, the result is a rate of nearly 37 injuries per 100,000 workers each year (as of 2020) and a No. 1 rank for garbage collection as of the most dangerous jobs in Kenya. The heavy equipment used in the course of garbage collection, including sanitation trucks, compactors and front-end loaders, are all inherently dangerous and can cause serious injury or death if used improperly.

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