The waste collection and disposal industry is one of the more dangerous sectors in our economy. The largest portion of the workforce in this industry spends their days collecting solid waste in residential, commercial and industrial neighborhoods. A smaller number of workers sort and recycle solid waste at fixed locations. Solid waste workers have a risk of fatal occupational injury higher than that of the general work force.
Workplace hazards facing solid waste workers
Solid waste workers can suffer many different types of on-the job injuries. These include:
- Sprains and strains to the hands, arms, shoulders and back from repeated lifting
- Contusions caused by falls from vehicles, catwalks and other raised surfaces
- Slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall injuries on flat surfaces
- Injuries and death resulting from backover accidents
- Crushing injuries to the hands and arms caused by compactors
- Exposure to hydrogen sulfide, diesel exhaust, biohazards and other airborne contaminants at collection points, sorting facilities and landfills
- Lacerations caused by sharp objects
- Injuries and death resulting from motor vehicle collisions
- Dog bites
One study of Florida solid waste workers found that the lower extremities were the most vulnerable body parts (26.6 percent of injuries) followed by the upper extremities at 23.1 percent. It noted that back injuries were also common. Drivers and helpers were the most vulnerable occupational group, suffering almost two-thirds of all injuries in the solid waste sector, even though they comprise only about 40 percent of all solid waste workers in Florida.
Solid waste workers who have suffered injuries while working may be able to claim workers’ compensation benefits. They should speak with an experienced attorney if they have questions about filing a claim or qualifying for benefits.