Working safely around sanitation trucks

According to NIOSH, the private and public solid waste industry recorded 599 fatal traumatic occupational injuries between 2003 and 2009 – an average of 85 fatalities each year. This number encompasses all three major groups of the industry: collection, treatment and disposal, as well as other waste remediation services. However, NIOSH notes that the largest number of occupational injuries occurred among workers in the transportation and material-moving job class, which includes truck drivers and collection laborers. Collisions, rollovers and being struck by motorists were common causes of fatalities.

The Environmental and Occupational Health Surveillance Program of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services provides safety recommendations for both collectors and drivers.

Safety tips for collectors include:

  • Stay alert.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including reflective vests.
  • Know where the sanitation truck is at all times, and never stand behind it when it is backing up.
  • Do not stand on the riding step or platform if the truck is backing up or traveling faster than 10 mph.
  • Stand to the side of the truck when it is compacting.

Safety recommendations for sanitation truck drivers include:

  • Ensure all lights and back-up alarms are working.
  • Always know where your collectors are, and do not move the truck unless you can see all workers.
  • Do not back up the truck until you have signaled all workers.
  • Use a co-worker as a spotter when backing up.