In our series about dangerous jobs in America, one particular job keeps popping up on several “top ten” lists: refuse collectors.  Also known as garbage collectors, these folks are waste management professionals.  Their job not only includes collecting refuse for disposal, but also for recycling, which has become a very important plan in keeping our planet green.

This occupation is probably one that we take for granted: we know they are going to make their stop by our house regularly.  One thing for sure – they face many hazards in their job performance.  Statistics from the Bureau of Labor show that for every 100,000 workers, 43 in this occupation die annually.

Some of the dangers they face are:

  • Getting hit by passing cars;
  • Falling off trucks;
  • Getting compressed in equipment;
  • Handling chemicals, toxic materials, or contaminated needles that haven’t been disposed of properly;
  • Working in all kinds of weather;
  • Getting cut by glass.
  • Experiencing strains and sprains, and overexertion from jumping off and on trucks.

Recycling is the secondary smelting and refining of nonferrous metals and used scrap.  Workers in recycling also risk being struck by objects, getting caught in equipment, and being exposed to hazardous materials.

When a little boy I knew was about 9 years old, we asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  His answer was very sincere: he either wanted to be an airplane pilot or a garbage man.  While being a garbage man or refuse collector may not be as glamorous as a pilot, the person doing the job is a very important part of the waste management community.