Taking out the trash can be dangerous. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. And the numbers prove it.               

Recent large losses among Society Insurance policyholders include the following claims:

  • Shoulder injury: $121,000
  • Shoulder injury (again): $117,628
  • Back injury: $62,550
  • Back strain: $17,347

What is especially interesting is that these claims have one thing in common. They all involve taking out the trash.

So, what can be done to reduce the danger and make trash removal safer? Start by controlling the hazards associated with these three simple areas:

Proper Handling of Trash Bags

Set yourself up for success by taking note of these tips before (and during) the removal of the trash bag.

  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and safety glasses
  • Tie the bag shut before removing it from the trash can to contain contents
  • Limit the weight of the bag by emptying when trash bags are half full to three-quarters full
  • To reduce suction, tilt the garbage can when removing the bag. This makes it easier to pull the bag out – and it’s much less frustrating!
  • Use two-wheeled dollies to roll trash bags to the dumpster

Proper Garbage Lifting Techniques

While safe lifting techniques seem like an obvious safety measure, unsafe lifting remains a common cause of injury during garbage removal.

  • If available, use a mechanized trash can dumper or one with a hydraulic foot pump
  • Bend at the knees and keep your back straight when lifting bags
  • Keep the bags close to your body to prevent muscle strains. However, do not allow the bags to touch your body in case sharp objects may be poking through.
  • Empty trash bags frequently to limit the weight of the bag
  • If the bag is too heavy, GET HELP

Dumpster Controls

After you’ve made it this far, it would be a shame if an injury occurred at the dumpster.

  • Check your surroundings on the way to and around the dumpster for slip, trip and fall exposures – especially for snow and ice during the winter months
  • Open and secure the lid before lifting trash bags into dumpster
  • Face the dumpster while lifting bags to avoid uncomfortable twisting
  • Do not reach above shoulder-height to get trash bags into the dumpster. If necessary, use a step platform to safely lift the bags into the dumpster.
  • NEVER climb into a dumpster. If the dumpster is full, leave trash bags next to dumpster; make sure the bags are tied shut.

Above all, encourage employees to immediately report hazards and safety concerns to their supervisors. It is hard to correct a safety hazard if management is not aware of it.  Don’t let trash cost you cash.

Read more about building and maintaining a strong safety culture: Speak Up About Safety – 5 Steps to Building a Safety Culture in the Workplace.

Crime can also be a concern when taking out the trash. Read “Is Your Business a Target? Robbery Prevention Tips” which specifically addresses dangers at the back door.

To learn more about how Society can help protect your business, contact your local Society Insurance agent.

-Paul Fuerbringer


Paul is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater with a degree in Occupational Safety. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with over 33 years of experience in the safety field.

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