Being a garbage collector is not a glamorous job. Picking up people’s garbage, house after house going through every neighborhood in a municipality. It’s a physically demanding job coupled with hazardous risks. After all, the hardworking men and women don’t know what is in the bags they are picking up. They trust households are not exposing them to dangerous materials.Glass, nails, hypodermic needles, and other medical waste continue to injure garbage collectors. In fact, injuries from sharp objects are on the rise in this South American country.
Not disposing of these materials adequately has increased injuries by upwards of 30%. In 2015 alone, there were 16 cases of injuries on the job.
Four were cut by nails and two from broken glass. In smaller municipalities, officials ask folks to wrap broken glass in news paper.
One of his nerves was punctured causing extreme pain. Consequently, he lost function in that part of the hand.
“We must promote the recognition and appreciation of the work done by the sweepers and collectors,” says Jhon Jairo Martínez, general manager of Clean Urban in de la Costa. He highlights how hard the garbage collectors work.
“The management of solid waste is not easy, operators perform their functions with dignity and their work contributes to the improvement of our environment and the environment,” Martínez adds.
“We have to be aware of the consequences of depositing dangerous elements without any protection within the trash bags,” he says. “Therefore, I extend the invitation to all the Cartagena people to contribute their bit and help give a good management to this type of waste.”
The port city of Cartagena is facing criticism as medical clinics are disposing of residues in regular garbage bags as opposed to using specialized medical waste companies.
Random checks by the municipality have found biological residue, bodily fluids such as blood, placenta, urine, and chemotherapy waste. Martínez is pleading with Colombians to put a tap on the needle prior to throwing it out.
The province of Ontario in Canada reminded folks of the dangers of disposing of “sharps,” a term referring to medical devices with sharp points and edges capable of puncturing or cutting the skin.
“We want to make sure residents understand that if they dispose of their needles and sharps improperly, they are putting workers who collect their recyclables and trash at risk,” the statement reads. “Much of this work is done by hand, creating a hazardous situation for people who are providing a service to all of us.”
“If a sharps container is not available, store the needles in a hard plastic container with a lid, such as an empty peanut butter jar. Containers should then be brought to an approved location such as a local pharmacy.”
The individual goes through a barrage of testing that can take months. The bag where the needles come from is opened to see if there are more. A city supervisor will try to find whose house the needles come from to see if the employee is in danger.
Craig Bartlett, manager of waste operations, said in a statement ” This is a serious issue that affects the safety of not only workers, but also their families, by potentially exposing them to diseases such as hepatitis or HIV.”
Even labelling the contained with “do not recycle” is not enough. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says this is discouraged as it still a danger to garbage haulers but also facility workers.
Pharmacies and hospitals will take back used sharps as long as they are in a closed container. There are also devices in the market where they can break the needle off or melt it.
Others are purchasing new trucks equipped with an automated loading system for bins. Nonetheless, not every city or town can afford upgrading the uniforms nor purchasing new garbage trucks.
Garbage collectors came in at number six as the deadliest job in America. Loggers, fishers, pilots and flight engineers, non-mining extraction workers, and roofers came ahead.