The men and women who collect and haul our garbage play a vital role in keeping our towns and cities livable. However, their work is often unappreciated and the dangers they face every day go unnoticed by the general public.
If you are a sanitation worker, you know the risks of your job, but do you know what to do if you are injured on the job and need medical care and time off work to recover? As an Ohio workers’ comp attorney, I represent injured workers from all walks of life, and I make it my business to understand the accidents they may face.
Dangers of Garbage Collecting
After fishermen, loggers, pilots, and roofers, refuse and recyclable materials collectors face the highest numbers of injuries and fatalities on the job in the United States, according to several safety watchdog groups. Refuse collectors are injured five to seven times more than the average worker, with 52.7 injuries per 100 workers each year. Being in the top five of dangerous jobs means that garbage collectors should know their eligibility for workers’ compensation in Ohio.
Typical accidents involving sanitation workers include:
- Vehicle accidents. Collectors are frequently in the road as they grab cans on their routes and may be struck by a car passing by or even by the truck they are working on. They are also at risk of being pinned between the garbage truck and another vehicle.
- Struck by an object. As a collector tosses the contents of cans into the compressor portion of the truck, objects can be ejected back at the worker. This debris may be heavy and sharp, such as metal or glass shards.
- Equipment malfunction. Truck doors, compressors, lifting units, and other equipment are prone to malfunction. A worker could be trapped and crushed by the equipment or could be injured when trying to repair a broken component.
- Lifting and falling incidents. Without proper training and care, workers can suffer repetitive motion, back, and neck injuries as they jump in and out of the truck and lift heavy cans repeatedly during a shift.
- HazMat exposure. Garbage collectors can be exposed to hazardous materials and chemicals including battery acid, pesticides, bleach—and worse—as they dump cans into the truck.
Given the equipment they work with and the unpredictability of the loads they are dumping from one stop to the next, not surprisingly, sanitation workers experience a high rate of accidents on the job, resulting in serious injuries and, tragically, sometimes death.
Typical Garbage Collector Injuries
Driving the vehicle, jumping on and off the back of a truck, repetitive heavy lifting, and working around dangerous machinery is just part of the job for sanitation workers, but when something goes wrong, they risk sustaining a gruesome injury that could put them out for a long time.
Garbage collectors may file for workers’ compensation with these injuries and more:
- Back injuries. Permanent, debilitating damage to the spinal column can result from the heavy lifting, twisting, bending, and jumping required of garbage collectors.
- Cuts and lacerations. The contents of garbage cans can be sharp and abrasive, causing deep wounds in the workers who must handle them. Coupled with the unsanitary nature of the work, collectors are at high risk of infection.
- Traumatic brain injury. Falling from the truck or being struck by an ejected object or another vehicle could cause a head injury resulting in serious brain damage.
- Crushed or broken bones. Serious compound fractures can happen when a worker is caught in machinery, falls from the truck, or is hit by another vehicle.
- Mutilation or amputation. Being caught up in machinery or run over by a vehicle can cause horrific injuries in sanitation workers that could prevent them from ever working again.
- Poisoning and respiratory damage. Handling hazardous materials can cause chemical burns, lung damage, and poisoning, especially over many years of exposure.
How an Ohio Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Help
If you were injured on the job as a garbage collector and are not getting the respect you deserve when applying for workers’ comp, you may need an experienced attorney to help secure your benefits. Learn more by requesting my free book, Worker’s Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, and call my office to schedule a meeting to discuss your specific situation.