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Call to ban recycling boxes on safety grounds

Councils should stop using boxes for recycling because of the risk of injury to refuse workers who have to handle them, safety experts have said.

The call has come from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), whose research found the number of musculoskeletal injuries fell when wheeled bins were used instead of boxes.

Research published in the IOSH’s Policy and Practice in Health and Safety journal found that injury, damage or disorder of joints or other tissues in the upper or lower limbs or back fell when wheeled bins were introduced.

The IOSH said local authorities “should discontinue ‘box type’ collections on musculoskeletal disorder grounds as a matter of urgency”.

University of Greenwich academic David Thomas, a member of IOSH’s environmental and waste management group committee, said: 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.

“It is also an opportunity for organisations to accept that their current methods of managing work can create ill-health problems, and consider ways to make workforces more sustainable in the future including changing systems of work.”

The IOSH said the findings confirmed previously established links between awkward occupational postures and lower back pain, which can often be a result of bending and twisting while lifting boxes or sorting recycling into different components and bins.

Andy Robertson, chair of the IOSH environmental and waste management group, said: “Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive show that around 70% of all workers in the waste management industry are involved in municipal household and commercial collections. These collections account for about 80% of all the reported injuries, with the most common being musculoskeletal disorders.”

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