Ergonomics seeks to understand the interaction between humans and their work environment. It studies risk factors in the workplace environment that may cause injuries and develops steps to improve productivity.
In the waste industry, ergonomics is a serious business. Waste collection is one of the nation’s most dangerous professions. This fact is not entirely strange as many workers end up with injuries while performing their duties.
In the U.S., workers in material recovery facilities and landfills experience injuries, especially musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These injuries arise from exerting force beyond their capacities.
There was a need to curb the fatality rate, which resulted in several safety efforts by industries. One of the foremost endeavors is the ‘Slow Down to Get Around’ laws. The law mandates motorists to slow down when they see waste collection vehicles or workers. The law significantly reduced fatalities that occur during collection.
Employers also have the task of protecting their workers from injuries. Moreover, the slow down laws did not cover landfills and material recovery facilities. The duties of employers include removing hazards and providing tools to ensure work efficiency.
Since the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an ergonomics “action plan” in 2002, industries took several steps to reduce workplace injuries. The action plan improved enforcement mechanisms, compliance with guidelines, and research support.
To domesticate these guidelines on ergonomics, stakeholders in the waste industry developed procedures to promote ergonomics. The Environmental Industry Associations, in collaboration with the Environmental Research and Education Foundation, developed training measures.
The efforts of the EIA and EREF resulted in an ergonomics training program for workers in the solid waste industry. The online distance learning training taught solid waste industry stakeholders on how to eliminate ergonomic hazards. The program also includes learning aids like slides, diagrams, video, and audio content.
Asides the OSHA’s regulations, guidelines, and training programs, it also outlines a process for protecting solid waste workers. The procedures involve integral elements of any ergonomic measure taken to protect workers. It requires the management of solid waste industries to provide support to the ergonomic process.
The processes also seek to ensure that ergonomic activity allows for workers’ inclusion and training for employees. Industries implementing ergonomic procedures also need to identify ergonomic problems, report MSD symptoms early enough, and execute ergonomic hazards. The last method involves evaluating the workplace’s progress.
We are staunch supporters of ergonomic practices in the industry. Thus, in compliance with all the measures to safeguard workers, we adopt the following standards. These measures recognize lifting as the primary cause of many injuries and focus on eliminating lifting as much as possible.
- We prevent workers from the lifting of unnecessary and bulky items.
- We prevent manual emptying or transfer of containers. Instead, automated equipment undertakes the lifting, transfer, or emptying of solid waste.
- We avoid all forms of stretching, bending, and reaching during work. Workers instead make use of tilters to get items.
Our procedures also comply with the Ergonomic Checklists for the Solid Waste Industry. This checklist outlines stretching techniques for workers, machine use and maintenance, and equipment operation procedures.