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article imageMusculoskeletal risks linked to recycling waste

By Tim Sandle     Jan 21, 2019 in Health
London - Recycling is beneficial to the planet, whether conducted by the average home owner or by waste collection teams. There are aspects that need to be taken care of, however, such as avoiding musculoskeletal disorders, as a new study points out.
The research examines musculoskeletal disorders connected to different recycling and waste collection systems, with a focus on the workers tasked with collecting waste from households. Many local authorities require residents to segregate waste into different containers so that the division of different types of recyclable goods is clearer. These containers tend to be static (non-wheeled) objects. The study comes from the University of Greenwich and it has been published by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).
The research has made some important observations. The first is that recycling and waste collection impact upon the human body, and care needs to be taken when moving heavy objects, such as lower back, shoulder, neck and upper spine as areas of the body. These are the areas where those engaged in waste collection tend to indicate that any pain is greatest.
The second finding is that wheeled bin-based waste management services are linked with a lower number of musculoskeletal disorder outcomes. This is especially so when wheeled devices are used for boxes, baskets and bags.
A third finding is that particular care needs to be taken with aging societies, as this group of society are more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal disorders. The research recommends that municipal authorities in the U.K. discontinue ‘box type’ collections due to musculoskeletal disorder risks, and replace receptacles used for recycling goods with contraptions on wheels.
To assess the impact on workers, the researchers used a combination of body mapping, together with questionnaires. The collected data was then compared against a unit of measurement called the Average Pain Count (APC). Data was collected over a four-year period.
According to one of the researchers, Dr David Thomas: “The findings of this research present a timely opportunity for organisations to consider how they protect their workforces. Rather than organisations focusing on generic ‘capability’ for a ‘fit youngster’ they need to consider how they accommodate an ever-increasing ageing workforce when developing systems of work.”
In terms of solutions, the findings showed that the overall APC per worker fell significantly when wheeled devices are used and with the removal of boxes. The cause of this pain decrease was a reduction with the amount of manual handling required.
The research has been published in the journal Policy and Practice in the Health and Safety. The research paper is titled “Using body mapping as part of the risk assessment process – a case study.”
More about Recycling, musculoskeletal, Waste, Physiology
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