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World at work: Refuse collectors
  1. P P F M Kuijer,
  2. M H W Frings-Dresen
  1. Coronel Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health, AmCOGG: Center for Research into Health and Health Care, Academic Medical Center/University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P Kuijer
 Coronel Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health, Academic Medical Centre/University of Amsterdam, PO Box 22700, 1100 DE Amsterdam, Netherlands;

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A discussion of risks of the job and measures to protect the workers

Refuse is collected all around the world. The following collecting methods are mentioned in the literature:1 bags (plastic and paper), bins (110–150 l), drums (110–210 l), two-wheeled containers (80–360 l), and four-wheeled containers (300–1800 l). Over all, the job of a refuse collector can be characterised by frequent lifting, carrying, pushing, and/or pulling of heavy objects. In the Netherlands, most production systems to collect domestic refuse make use of a closed refuse truck with an automatic lifting device to empty two-wheeled containers (fig 1) or four-wheeled containers (fig 2).2,3 Only in a few parts of the Netherlands, especially in city areas where households have no space to place a container, are bags collected.4 In general, the wheeled containers are collected by a team of a truck driver and one or two refuse collectors. Table 1 presents the time spent on the different tasks and activities.2 An average work day of a refuse collector lasts about 8 hours (range 6–12). A refuse collector of two-wheeled containers collects about 11 000 kg of refuse per day, and a refuse collector of four-wheeled containers about 14 000 kg. This is about 500 (22 kg of refuse per container) two-wheeled containers and 130 (110 kg of refuse per container) four-wheeled containers each day. In general, a refuse collector pushes and pulls one two-wheeled container at a time. Pulling of the two-wheeled container is often done with one hand behind the back. A four-wheeled container is in general transferred by two persons.2

View this table:
Table 1

Mean (SD) of the duration of the most important tasks and activities for refuse collectors of two-wheeled and four-wheeled containers in the Netherlands2

Figure 1

Collecting of two-wheeled containers.

Figure 2

Collecting of a four-wheeled container.

The …

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