Sanitation employers and employees in Pennsylvania may not be aware that the industry they work in is one of the most dangerous in the nation. Among civilian occupations in 2016, refuse and recyclable material collectors had the fifth highest fatal injury rate. This is according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Protecting sanitation workers is therefore essential. OSHA, while it conducts inspections of sanitation companies and reviews complaints, does not have any regulations that directly regulate the industry or its vehicles. However, the agency does cite in its General Duty Clause a set of standards drawn up by the American National Standards Institute.
These are the standard procedures: sanitation workers can only ride in the truck cab or on the riding steps; those inside remain inside until the vehicle stops; those outside must not be on the riding steps when the truck is backing at a speed exceeding 10 mph; and they should never ride on the loading sills or inside the hopper. The Solid Waste Association of North America adds that workers should buckle up, wear protective equipment and never use their phones while behind the wheel.
Sanitation employers should consider automated side-loaders if their trucks are manual loaders. These will protect workers from overexertion and exposure to dangerous chemicals. Installing rearview cameras is also recommended. Above all, employees must be trained regularly.
When sanitation workers incur injuries, victims could be compensated for the resulting medical bills and any short- or long-term disability leave by filing a workers’ compensation claim. No one needs to be blamed for the injuries. The only requirement is to show that the injuries are work related. Since this may take the testimony of a medical expert, victims are advised to hire a lawyer with a network of such professionals. The lawyer could also mount an appeal if the claim is denied.