Musculoskeletal disorders in waste management and recycling 

Musculoskeletal disorders account for around one third of all reported injuries in the industry. The majority of these are associated with collection activities and are either sudden or cumulative injuries.

The following factors influence your likelihood of suffering a manual handling injury whilst lifting waste and recyclables:

  • the load weight;
  • receptacle type and design;
  • vehicle design;
  • collection frequency;
  • street environment;
  • training;
  • systems of work; and
  • working outside your capabilities.

The risk assessment should consider risks to staff and assess whether those risks have been adequately controlled. Following the hierarchy of control, control measures should be implemented where reasonably practicable.

The Manual Handling Operations Regs, Reg 4(1)(a) states that the need to undertake any manual handling operation which is likely to involve a risk of injury should be avoided so far as is reasonably practicable. Where manual handling cannot be avoided, steps should be taken to reduce the risk of injury to the lowest reasonably practicable level.

The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) has produced two reports specific to the waste and recycling industry to help you carry out a manual handling risk assessment . These reports only cover manual handling risks. You will need to take into account other hazards as well as their consequences.

Design and maintenance issues

We will be working with the industry, manufacturers and designers to investigate:

  • The ergonomic design of waste receptacles
  • Design of vehicles and systems of work used for kerbside sorting
  • The size and reliability of wheels used on wheelie bins and bulk refuse receptacles
  • Maintenance of bulk refuse receptacles' wheels, lifting points on skips and bottle banks, etc.

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Updated 2023-08-08