03 Aug 08/03/2020
The job of a sanitation worker is tough. Waste workers stick their hands into piles of garbage, trash, and junk every day to make good on the hierarchy that rules the waste management industry: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Workers in the waste and recycling industry face many occupational health risks and hazards. The most significant risks are punctures, cuts, lacerations, and abrasions using specialized knives and other tools to sort trash. Workers are also likely to encounter the sharp edges of broken materials and hypodermic needles that haven't been disposed of properly.
Sharp objects are lurking everywhere in the trash.
In addition to their previous safety precautions, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide guidance and recommendations for solid waste and wastewater management workers at increased risk of occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2. OSHA considers workers who handle waste from healthcare facilities generated in the care of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are at a medium exposure risk and should continue to use routine controls for treating any type of medical waste - not just that of COVID-19 patients.
Taking it one step further, in early May, the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) asked Congress to provide 250,000 units of PPE for the industry in the next coronavirus relief package. Why would the industry request such a large PPE need? Waste management and recycling is a job where workers face a constant threat of workplace hazards. Add in a pandemic, and you've got the perfect storm for workers getting injured.
Let's waste no time here – this article is all about waste management, safety, and PPE.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines Waste Management and Remediation Services as the collection, treatment, and disposal of waste materials. It includes a multitude of different functions:
Waste management is also a process that involves treating solid and liquid waste and recycling items that aren't categorized as trash. This allows people to reuse certain types of "garbage" as a valuable resource, which helps our environment stay vital.
The BLS projects that by 2026, the number of "refuse and recyclable material collectors" jobs will increase by 13 percent, amounting to an estimated 17,700 new jobs.
Waste360, an event, commerce, and education provider to the waste management industry and host of WasteExpo, annually ranks the top 100 waste management companies in the United States, which include Clean Harbors, Waste Management, and Republic Waste Management, Inc.
Here are some of the most plentiful jobs in this industry:
Lead abatement involves numerous hazards.
Septic Tank Cleaning
According to the most recent data from the BLS, released in 2019, injuries and illnesses for waste and recycling collection workers increased to 5.5 incidents per 100 full-time employees in 2018, nearly double the national rate of 2.8 for other occupations. Specifically, solid waste collection workers saw an increase from 5.1 to 5.9. Injured or ill workers cited "sprains, strains and tears" most often as causes, resulting in a median 13 days away from the job.
With the increase in injury and illness rates in the collection sector, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) point to ongoing concerns about route safety, given the inherent, unpredictable hazards of continually picking up carts, bags, and other garbage containers. Here is a quick look at some of the hazards workers face:
Also, OSHA highlights that hazards found at waste sites are similar to those found at construction sites. Handling materials, cutting metal, and welding are everyday activities waste management workers perform. Our Construction industry page may be an additional resource for you to consider.
Some industries, including waste management, expose workers to a higher risk of cuts and lacerations. Occupations like refuse and recyclable material collectors require extreme cut-resistant PPE, the highest-rated personal protective equipment to reduce the risk of cuts, punctures, and lacerations.
Thankfully, there is guidance to help the user choose appropriate PPE. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has a nine-point scale for cut-resistant PPE. The higher the number, the better the cut resistance, with A9 being the highest: 6,000+ grams. MCR Safety offers several ANSI A9-rated sleeves, aprons, and gloves that provide extreme cut protection even in the most dangerous industries.
9-inch and 19-inch Sleeves
MCR Safety's A9 sleeves and aprons are made in a modacrylic/Kevlar® blend and are also rated ANSI Puncture Level 3 and ANSI Contact Heat Level 5.
Chemical-Resistant Gloves – Liquid waste is an absolute concern for waste collection workers. Our chemical permeation database provides specific breakthrough times for our gloves when exposed to various chemicals. Our entire glove catalog can be found here.
MG9645 and 6620KV provide both liquid and cut protection.
Safety Glasses – Whether you need safety goggles to protect against chemical exposure or are just looking for a nice pair of ANSI Z87 rated shades, we've got over 700 options to keep your eyes protected.
Our SR3, SR4, and SR5 safety glasses are the latest models.
Hi-Vis – As we highlighted above, waste management workers are active around busy roads. Staying seen is of critical importance, which means our lineup of protective garments is essential. Guess what? We're now taking the trash they collect and turning it into the protection they require. Our new RVCL2MOZ and RVCL2MLZ vests are made from recycled water bottles.
Lastly, we have developed tools to help you find the most appropriate cut- and puncture-resistant gloves. Using the MCR Safety Glove Material Search by CE/ANSI Score, you are one step closer to selecting the right cut-resistant glove for your needs.
What are the "three R's" of waste management?
What are the goals of waste management?
What is solid-waste management?
What does waste management recycle?
What does waste management do with trash?
How much is waste management a month?
For those working around the extreme hazards of waste management, where cut and puncture injuries are likely to occur, MCR Safety has a full lineup of PPE designed to provide the safety you and your workers need.
Click the image above to request a quote, leave us a comment, ask a question, or share any concerns.
For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there to provide solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at (800) 955-6887.