Paul Zambrotta, Mr. T Carting Safety Officer
Before COVID, there were roughly 108,000 business receiving private waste and recycling collection services in New York City. In most waste markets in the U.S., that many active customers would translate into a lot of dumpsters placed across a city. But in New York City’s densely populated five boroughs, there is not a lot of space to put a large dumpster, and it is equally difficult to find space for businesses to store and use 64-gallon roll-out carts. With little to no space for storage of solid waste, most businesses (including many of Mr. T Carting’s customers) set out their trash and recycling in plastic bags on curbs at night, most days of the week. All of these plastic bags of waste mean that automatic lifters on trucks are a moot point, and that waste collection requires a lot of lifting on behalf of our Drivers and Helpers.
Mr. T Carting understands that if our Drivers and Helpers do not use proper lifting techniques, the physical demands of lifting thousands of pounds of material each shift can cause back injuries (among others). Teaching our Drivers and Helpers how to properly lift and carry is one of the most important components of our new hire safety training procedures. While this training is for our Drivers and Helpers, it is also helpful that our customers to understand that is most likely humans (not machines) doing the lifting. It is important that our customers put their waste and recycling on the curb in bags that are a manageable weight.
Our training can be broken down into four steps.
1. Identify what you are going to move into the truck.
We also call this “sizing up the load”. Ask yourself, “Can I lift this realistically?”. If it looks too heavy for one person, it probably is. At this point, our Drivers and Helpers are advised to call for help. If the load is simply too heavy for our staff on the truck to manage (like some types of bulk waste or demolition materials), a separate pass might be needed with special equipment or more assistance.
At this point, it is also important to determine if it is safe to pick up the waste. There are so many daily hazards along the collection route, like oncoming traffic or dangerous materials. Either wait until the hazard passes—in the case of traffic—or call for a second opinion from another Driver or Helper if the bag presents as dangerous in any way.
2. Squat to center your body in front of the object.
Try to locate the center of gravity and an area where you can grab the load that limits your need to press the bag or object against your body. We always want to limit the contact we have with loads to prevent any pricks by sharp objects.
3. Grab the object so that it is secure in your gloved hands.
4. Using your legs, stand-up with the object, rotate your entire body (not just your spine) towards the truck, and load the item.
Never twist your upper body with your legs fixed in place! This can cause overexertion of the joints or discs. It is important to remember to keep your torso as vertical as possible when lifting in order to ensure that you are using your legs, not your back, to lift the load.
Practice this technique not only in the workplace, but in your personal life, too. Whether you are new to the industry or you are a “veteran” of the trade, safe lifting will ensure that your body will stay healthy throughout your younger years, ensuring that your later years are comfortable and do not include weekly visits to the doctor. Proper lifting is reinforced for all staff at Mr. T Carting as part of our continuous improvement effort and we encourage our customers to also practice safe lifting techniques.