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Sanitation work can be hazardous to your health

| May 21, 2015 | Workers’ Compensation

Although sanitation work may not initially seem very hazardous, many sanitation employees in Illinois and throughout the country sustain serious injuries and seek the assistance of a workers compensation lawyer in Arlington Heights or pass away performing their duties. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 450 workers over the age of 16 died in accidents related to refuse collection between the years 1980 and 1992.

However, the risk of death and injury sanitation workers face has not improved very much since the early nineties. In 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that for every 100,000 sanitation workers in the country, 22 will pass away while performing their responsibilities. Additionally, sanitation ranks as one of the top three occupations to pose a serious risk of falling to its workers.

Risks sanitation workers face

Sanitation work is extremely hazardous because of the many hazards employees face every time they go to work. One of the main hazards sanitation workers are exposed to on a daily basis is the contents of the waste receptacles. Often, these trash cans contain hazardous chemicals that sanitation workers can inhale as well as broken glass and pet waste. Sanitation workers also regularly find the carcasses of small pets and old syringes in these receptacles. Additionally, since the massive blades within garbage trucks frequently cause bags of trash to open, sanitation workers are at risk of being hit by heavy flying objects.

Those who work in the sanitation industry also put a tremendous strain on their body every day. In some areas, sanitation workers will run for up to 20 miles behind a moving garbage truck throughout the course of their workday. Additionally, many of the physical injuries sanitation workers sustain develop because they repeatedly perform awkward movements, like lifting heavy garbage cans, throughout the course of their workday. These daily tasks can result in ankle sprains, back problems and other issues.

Physical injuries may become an even greater risk on wet and rainy days. When sanitation workers are required to walk up and down pavement lifting heavy cans, they can slip, fall and injure themselves.

One other daily risk sanitation workers face is the traffic that they are required to weave in and out of as they collect the garbage from receptacles on the streets. In a large majority of accidents, sanitation workers are hit by other vehicles trying to move around the garbage truck.

Safety standards and regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has yet to issue safety standards for refuse collection vehicles. However, standards and regulations that address the use of garbage collection equipment have been developed by the American National Standards Institute. Under these standards, it is recommend that sanitation workers:

  • Only ride inside of the garbage truck or on the steps of the vehicle that are specifically designed for riding
  • Make sure that others working with them do not remain on the riding steps when the vehicle is backing up or travelling at a speed higher than 10 mph
  • Wait to leave the vehicle’s cabin until it has come to a complete stop
  • Refrain from riding on the garbage truck’s hoppers or on the vehicle’s loading sills

These standards also address recommended practices for the construction of sanitation vehicles. For example, under these regulations, it is recommended that sanitation vehicles be equipped with a warning device that alerts others in the vicinity that the vehicle is backing up.

In addition to the safety standards produced by the ANSI, the National Solid Waste Management Association has developed procedures for sanitation workers. These procedures specifically address how to back up a sanitation vehicle safely, what sanitation workers need to do while spotting and how to appropriately walk around refuse collection equipment. For example, those who drive sanitation vehicles should check both of their side mirrors when backing up and immediately stop the truck if they can no longer see their spotter.

Benefits available to sanitation workers

Since many sanitation workers continue to become injured or killed while performing their duties, despite the existence of these regulations, those who survive a workplace accident may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits with the assistance of their workers compensation lawyer in Arlington Heights. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, these benefits are paid to workers who sustain an injury on the job and are available regardless of fault. This means that an injured sanitation worker can receive workers’ compensation benefits if he or she caused the accident, or if it was caused by extenuating circumstances.

The benefits that injured workers are eligible to receive can be divided into several different categories. These include medical care, temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability and vocation and rehabilitative maintenance benefits. The family members of sanitation workers who die in a work-related accident may also be able to receive death benefits under the workers’ compensation system.

Once sanitation workers sustain an injury at work, they should report it to their employer as soon as possible. However, employees are required provide notice of their injury to their employer within 45 days after the accident occurs. Failure to do this could result in a delay in the payment process.

However, even if injured workers follow proper reporting procedures, their employer may still deny them workers’ compensation benefits. When this occurs, sanitation workers who incurred an injury performing their duties may benefit from seeking the assistance of a workers compensation lawyer in Arlington Heights.