Sanitation workers are a necessary part of the workforce, helping to keep cities in Texas and across the United States free of trash. While seeing a sanitation worker collecting trash from homes and business is a fairly common sight, it is not commonly known the dangers that many workers face in their jobs. According to the Solid Waste Association of North America, seven sanitation workers were killed during the first 10 days of 2018.
Additionally, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that recyclable and refuse material collectors had the fifth highest rate of fatal work injuries in civil occupations in 2016. This amounts to 10 times higher risk compared with other occupations. Injuries and fatalities have been found to occur before, during and after each work shift.
Injuries typically range from overexertion from lifting heavy loads and jumping on and off the truck to exposure to hazardous or toxic materials. Broken glass, exposed needles and jagged metal scraps all pose a danger to sanitation workers. Other workers have been injured in compacters or machinery malfunctions. Though OSHA is not responsible for governing the rules or sanitation employees, it does investigate complaints and makes recommendations.
Sanitation employees who become injured while on the job often face heavy medical bills, loss of work and pain and suffering. While a workers' compensation claim may take some of this burden away from an employee and family, it may not cover everything necessary. Employers typically require that employees who take the workers' compensation settlement waive their right to file a civil suit, which could help the employee receive adequate compensation. Civil suits in personal injury cases must prove that the employer or actions of other employees were negligent, resulting in the injury or death. In the case of an injured sanitation worker, a lawyer could offer proof that the machinery wasn't maintained properly, resulting in a malfunction that caused the injury to occur.