The Health Risks of Being a Refuse Collector

The Health Risks of Being a Refuse Collector

The Health risks of Being a Refuse Collector

You might think that being a refuse collector is a dirty job, but would you think of it as a dangerous one? Well it turns out that it can be.

Bradford council had to pay over £1 million to an employee whose leg was crushed by a lorry while bins were being emptied, and there were 17 other recorded incidents involving refuse collections and wheelie bins, including one where £70,000 was paid out to an employee because their foot had been run over by a colleague in a bin lorry.

The council state that safety is very important to them, and that they take all reasonable steps to keep their employees and members of the public safe. They add that they are continually using new technology and systems to make their operations safer. In the case of refuse vehicles, all of them are now fitted with 360-degree camera systems.

The health risks of being a refuse collector  

Refuse collectors never know what they might come across from day to day, from hazardous materials to sharps, a day in the waste business can be a minefield. Here are some of the hazards that refuse collectors deal with every day:

Lifting heavy objects

This can cause back injuries, hernias, or other types of musculoskeletal injury. Proper manual handling techniques and the fact that many refuse vehicles now have mechanical lifts for bins reduces the risk of injury.


Adverse weather conditions are a common cause of slips, trips, and falls. Refuse collectors do their rounds in ice, rain, hail, and high winds, which makes their job all the more hazardous.

Hazardous materials

Waste can contain anything from battery acid to syringes (even though it shouldn’t), so there’s potential for injury, infection, and even poisoning and burns in some cases. All refuse collectors are provided with suitable protective gloves and long-sleeved clothing to reduce the risk.

Sharp materials

Broken glass and light bulbs are a common cause of injury for refuse collectors. If these items are put in with general waste, they can poke through bags and cause injury.


Mice, rats, and other pests can get into rubbish and this means that there’s the potential for disease, infection, or even bites if workers come into contact with them.

Refuse vehicles

There’s the risk of a vehicle collision, other traffic not spotting workers when they are stepping out from behind the vehicle, and there’s a risk of injury from mechanical lifting equipment or compactors that are fitted on the rear of most refuse vehicles now.