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Preventing fatalities among sanitation workers

According to the Solid Waste Association of North America, 7 sanitation workers were killed in the first 10 days of 2018. The Bureau of Labor Statistics date shows that sanitation workers ranked fifth among civilians with the highest workplace fatality rates in 2016. Anyone in Pennsylvania who is connected to this industry will want to know what has been done to keep it safe and what can still be done on the part of employees and employers.

The American National Standards Institute has provided some basic guidelines for sanitation workers to follow, and these have even been cited by OSHA. Workers are told to ride either in the vehicle cab or on specially designed steps, remain inside the cab until the vehicle has stopped and ensure that fellow workers are not on the riding steps when reversing. Employees should make sure that no one is on the loading sill or in the hopper.

Employees should consider protective clothing such as high-visibility vests, avoid cellphone use when driving or when inside the disposal facility, and wear their seat belt. If possible, employers can consider switching to automated side-loaders, which limits exposure to dangerous materials and the number of lifting hazards. If not, they could equip their current fleet with rear-view cameras. Most importantly, they must adequately train their employees on safe conduct.

When on-the-job accidents occur, victims can consider filing for workers comp benefits. This will waive their right to sue their employer, but it typically makes for a quicker process. All workers will need to prove is that the injuries were work-related. A lawyer may come in at this point and provide evidence from medical professionals. A lawyer may also be able to speak on the victim's behalf at a workers comp hearing if the victim seeks a higher settlement.

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