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Keeping sanitation workers safe


Keeping sanitation workers safe

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2016, collectors of refuse and recyclable material had the fifth highest fatal injury rates among employees in civilian occupations. Their fatality risk was 10 times greater than that of most other workers. Seven sanitation workers died in the first 10 days of 2018 alone according to the Solid Waste Association of North America. Workers in South Carolina may wonder what is being done to reduce fatalities in this industry.

OSHA, for its part, continues to inspect employers in the sanitation industry and investigate any complaints. OSHA regulations do not directly govern those employers or their vehicles, however. A set of procedures was published by the American National Standards Institute to provide safety guidance to sanitation workers. The procedures state, for instance, that workers should never be on the riding steps when the truck is in reverse and should never ride on the loading sills or in hoppers.

Sanitation employers who are still using manual loaders could consider automated side-loaders as these keep workers from straining themselves with heavy bags and being exposed to dangerous materials. Advances in technology have also benefited workers: Many garbage trucks are equipped with rear-view cameras, for example, although workers should be trained on a regular basis to prevent them from getting complacent with the technology.

In the event that sanitation workers are injured, they may be able to file a workers compensation claim and be reimbursed for medical expenses and a percentage of the wages they lose during their recovery. Benefits are paid out regardless of who is to blame; however, workers cannot sue their employer afterwards if they collect these benefits. To make the filing process easier, victims may choose to hire a lawyer to help show that the injuries are work-related and mount an appeal if the claim is denied.