Following several work-related fatalities in the California waste collection industry, you might have questions about your safety if this is your line of work. It is a challenging occupation, and receiving adequate safety training, the necessary tools, and personal protective equipment are crucial. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires your employer to protect you from known safety hazards.
These hazards include ergonomic and musculoskeletal threats, chemical poisoning, vermin and an endless list of dangerous, discarded objects. Safety authorities regard waste collection as one of the most hazardous occupations in the country.
Common hazards of waste collection
If you take note of the following common dangers, you can take precautions to prevent injuries:
- Hand injuries: Your job includes lifting, pushing and shoving of heavy refuse containers throughout every shift, and this poses severe risks of your hands and fingers being crushed and fractured. Early morning dew or rain, ice or snow makes these containers slippery, and wearing appropriate hand protection is crucial.
- Slips, trips and falls: Along with weather conditions, numerous other factors can cause slippery conditions in the areas where you do your job of collecting waste. Wet surfaces, ladders and running boards are slip hazards, and random trip hazards are par for the course in your occupation.
- Musculoskeletal injuries: Learning proper lifting techniques will prevent hernias, back injuries, spinal damage and sprains, strains and tears to muscles and ligaments. Frequent refresher training can remind you about the importance of back safety because musculoskeletal injuries can cause long-term chronic pain and even disability.
- Human factors: Safety training can serve to mitigate hazards that result from human factors like overexertion, exhaustion and fatigue. Any of these conditions will limit your ability to recognize dangerous situations and anticipate risks like those that can cause hand injuries, slippery surfaces and heavy objects that need a co-worker’s help to lift.
- Complacency: This is a significant hazard that can arise after months or years of avoiding work-related injuries. If you do not attend frequent safety training sessions, disregarding safety precautions might follow — with potentially devastating consequences.
While your employer can look out for you at the depot, your own vigilance and focus will have to keep you safe in remote locations on your waste collection rounds.
Regardless of the precautions you take, unexpected circumstances can lead to on-the-job accidents. Spending time in a hospital, followed by a recuperation period could leave you facing mounting medical bills and lost wages. Fortunately, the California workers’ compensation insurance program will likely provide financial assistance, and an experienced attorney can provide the necessary guidance and support throughout the benefits claims process.