Former garbage collector trashes council’s recent waste bylaw amendments

Former City employee Wayne Perry urged council to speak to the in-house staff currently performing garbage duties.
Former City employee Wayne Perry urged council to speak to the in-house staff currently performing garbage duties.

A former garbage collector took city council to task over the recent changes it made to its waste management bylaw in January, calling for the city to instead consult its “in-house” expertise to right the wrong.

Wayne Perry told city council during its committee-of-the-whole meeting last week he loaded garbage 25 years ago and it was more ergonomically friendly then than it is today. As a result, a total of 13 reported injuries involving garbage collection duties in Nelson have occurred in the last five years.

In response to the injuries, council amended its Waste Management and Wildlife Attractant Bylaw last January following an internal Occupational Health and Safety review, conducted to investigate the rash of injuries sustained by staff while collecting garbage.

Changes to the bylaw include the need for garbage collectors to be physically fit and stretching to start the workday, as well as lowering the curbside weight and placement of garbage bags the city will accept for removal and removing the bags from the can prior to workers’ arrival.

But Perry felt the changes were unnecessary, and far from the solution to the injury problem.

“I urge you to talk to your in-house expertise, the many workers that have, and currently are, doing garbage collection for you,” he told council. “They can tell you what is hurting them. They should have been involved in the fix.

“In my opinion, asking the public to take the garbage out of the can on garbage day is drastic. It will cause endless problems and it’s not really fixing much.”

Perry noted that when manually loading garbage all day what is needed is a good truck with a low loading point — around 36 inches high — at which point a compactor sweeps garbage away. With such a set up a garbage can can be tipped into the truck at the same loading point each time.

But the City of Nelson currently uses two vehicles in its dual stream collection system — garbage and recycling at the same time — and the small truck, in which the majority of the injuries have occurred in, is not a garbage truck.

It is a one-tonne with an aluminum box on it, said Perry. The loading point is five feet high, it is nine feet deep, and around nine feet to the top, with no compactor to sweep away the trash, so the loading height increases with every bag.

The Monday garbage run fills the truck six to seven times throughout the day.

“I believe throwing bags uphill into this truck is a major contributing factor to injuries,” he said. “Getting garbage into the truck forces you to twist and lift at the same time, and your target gets higher with every bag.”

The other truck, used Tuesday to Friday, is a dual-stream collection loader. What this means to workers, said Perry, is that half of everything has to be thrown to the other side of the truck.

While the loading point on this truck is not as high, the extra twist and long reach to throw to the other side (especially the heavier garbage) is a problem, meaning body mechanics that can cause injury, said Perry.

However, changing the maximum garbage bag weight — from 50 to 40 pounds — and requiring residents to remove the bags from their storage containers was not a necessary move, said Perry, and is, in his opinion, a step back.

“As a manual garbage collector, every time you grab a bag, rather than a can, you are exposed to a myriad of potential hazards, to carelessly disposed of sharps, to broken glass, sharp metal objects that can penetrate the bag and possibly penetrate your personal safety equipment. Cans are a safer alternative,” he said.

Garbage should be in a tied and tagged bag inside a regulation sized can with a lid on it. Can size and weight should be enforced, Perry explained.

“Unfortunately, I believe until these loading procedures and equipment issues are dealt with there is a strong possibility of more injuries. Wrong body mechanics are wrong,” he concluded. “Having more workers involved just means you have more workers at risk of injuries, injuries that could harm them for the rest of their lives.”

Council did not say if it was willing to re-open the bylaw, consider new garbage collection vehicles, or if it would consult with staff on the problem.

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