Techniques for Safe Trash Removal
It is not unusual for a staff member to suffer a back, shoulder, or neck injury when taking out the trash at the end of the day. The twisting motion of swinging heavy bags to get them over the rim of a dumpster is typically the source of the injury, but over-loaded bags can also cause the problem. To stay safe while managing the trash, consider these suggestions:
Wear gloves to protect your hands, especially when reaching into trash cans or pushing waste into a partially filled container.
- Test the weight of each load before lifting. Get help if it’s too heavy or awkward!
- NEVER try to toss the trash in the bin while holding the lid open. Always: 1) place the bag on the ground close to the bin; 2) open the bin; 3) pick up the bag with both hands.
- Use proper lifting techniques! Bend your knees and keep your back straight when picking up or lowering garbage cans and bags. Keep the load close to your body and AVOID TWISTING when lifting.
- To avoid awkward lifts above the shoulders, put the garbage can on its side before pulling the bag of trash out of the can.
- Empty trash cans frequently to avoid accumulating heavy loads.
- Use smaller garbage cans and bags.
- Tie off bags when half full and put in a second bag on top of the first.
- Use vent hoes or channels to reduce the suction. This can be as simple as a length of PVC pipe inserted between the garbage can and the plastic bag, to eliminate the possibility of a vacuum forming as the bag fills up.
- Look for any sharp or protruding objects before handling the trash.
- Provide separate containers for glass to avoid the risks of cuts and lacerations.
- Have a policy that addresses the disposal of heavy items.
Dumping heavy trash bags into the dumpster requires high force. Awkward postures are often involved. The top of the dumpster is frequently taller than the custodian. Therefore:
- Position the dumpster below a loading dock if possible - or consider building a ramp or a step-up platform that raises the employee’s mid-section closer to the rim of the receptacle.
- Position the trash bags as close as possible to the dumpster. If the bag is too heavy, get help. Make sure the employee has an alternative if help is not available when needed (e.g. leave the bag in the can until the next day, with a note stating that assistance is needed). If this is a frequent occurrence, review the size of the cans and bags and the possibility of pre-sorting.
- With feet and body facing the dumpster, step closer and toss the bag into the dumpster. Avoid twisting or tossing bags sideways.
Safety first! Injuries associated with heavy and repetitive lifting can be very serious and debilitating. Promote a culture in which it is the accepted norm to ask for help when it’s needed.
For photos and additional suggestions: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/Janitors.pdf