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Workers put in harm's way

Some jobs force workers to place themselves in vulnerable positions. Some of these jobs, including law enforcement, firefighting and construction, are well known for the hazards faced by workers. Others carry similar, or even greater levels of risk, but are not recognized as dangerous by the public. One such jog is that of trash collection.

Dangerous times, dangerous conditions

Garbage collection often starts in the very early morning. Lighting conditions are bad. A larger percentage of drivers than normal may be harried or still groggy. Some garbage collectors hop in and out of trucks, right alongside drivers who may be distracted, tired or squinting into an early morning sun. The result is that trash workers are struck and killed by cars at shocking rates. Garbage collectors suffer a higher fatality rate on the job than policemen.

Trash hauling safety

Garbage collectors blend into the background for many people. The trucks come on their assigned morning and the trash haulers do their work. Most people never give them a thought.

That lack of concern, however, is part of the problem. People fly by garbage trucks or treat them with impatience. The deference that any good driver gives to a school bus is absent, despite the many similarities that make garbage collection so dangerous. The vehicles stop frequently. Someone is getting on and off. The vehicles operate in residential areas. Garbage collectors are professional adults, rather than children, but they are also dealing with more than a child getting on or off a bus.

Some states have passed laws to increase the penalty for hitting a garbage truck or trash collector. Those penalties do nothing to help the families who have lost loved ones in fatal crashes. People need to slow down and take care when driving around garbage trucks. Workers' lives are at stake.

Source: Governing, "States Hope to Make One of the Dirtiest, Deadliest Jobs a Little Safer," by Daniel C. Vock, 10 August 2017

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