Are You Giving Your Dustman A 'Wheelie' Bad Back?

Waste collection health problems for binmen

After an extensive four year study, it turns out that our trusty binmen are suffering from a variety of job-related health problems in various parts of their bodies. Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Greenwich, who jointly conducted the study, found that many local authority waste disposal crews were suffering from ongoing problems in their spines, necks, lower backs, necks and shoulders.

During the four years, they used a special body mapping technique to analyse what the overall effects were for crews when lifting different times of waste containers. The findings suggest that in particular, lifting boxes and bags of household and business rubbish were causing the biggest problems due to the rubbish collection crews having to constantly bend and twist all throughout their working day.

The results were also established using what has been termed an ‘Average Pain Count’ which was based on the complaints received by different binmen depending on whether they were shifting either general waste bags, boxes, recycling waste bags or wheelie bins.

The Findings

Unsurprisingly, the results were pretty clear; workers who mainly collected waste in wheelie bins suffered far fewer problems than their peers who had to constantly lift boxes and bags all day.

As a result of the study, local councils have been told that they should stop using bags and boxes to collect kerbside rubbish and should instead focus their attention on wheelie bins in order to reduce the number of injuries sustained by their workforce. At the moment, different councils have different policies regarding the containers they supply local residents with. Some provide separate boxes for different types of waste whilst others provide none at all. Some will offer subsidised wheelie bins and others provide free binbags and recycling bags for householders to use. Furthermore, some councils will ask you to separate your recyclable refuse into different categories e.g. glass, card/paper and plastic etc.

More Wheeled Bins May Be On The Way

This means that, depending on where they work, the rubbish collection crews may be more at risk of developing injuries if they constantly have to bend and lift a myriad of bags and boxes rather than pulling wheelie bins along.

Professor Bill Hare, who was at the helm of the study, suggested that it was the constant lifting of bags and boxes that had led to the long-term musculoskeletal disorders that the rubbish collection crews were suffering from.

He went on to say that using wheeled bins instead of bags and boxes was essential if councils wanted to their staff to be more productive and suffer fewer injuries and that this should be addressed "as a matter of urgency".

Professor Hare also mentioned that, whilst these results were already known from studies conducted in the lab, this hands-on study carried out on the streets now provided real data for councils to peruse, so don't be surprised if your boxes and bags will be replaced with wheelie bins in the future.


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