Globally, solid waste collectors are exposed to occupational health related problems from waste materials and physical effort they exert in waste handling. Such occupational risk include, but not limited to contact with human faecal matter, part of waste that may have contaminated with toxic materials, bottles with chemical residues, metal containers with residue pesticides and solvents, sharps and other infectious wastes from hospitals, and batteries containing heavy metals. They are also exposed to exhaust emissions of refuse trucks [1–3]. The waste collector’s job involves repetitive motion, awkward working positions, forceful hand exertion and frequent manual handling. Dim lighting in early morning hours, and rain are inevitable. All such conditions potentially contribute to ergonomic problems .
Standard operation procedures in handling municipal solid wastes in industrialized countries have reduced occupational and environmental impacts significantly. However, the risk levels are still very high in developing countries because of poor public health practice. In low-income countries, solid waste collectors have low socio-economic status such as poverty, lack of education, poor housing conditions and poor nutrition. Farther more, this group of workers is exposed directly and without adequate personal protection to municipal solid waste (MSW) which includes hazardous substances [2–4]. Commonly observed health problems among this working group include respiratory symptoms, irritation of the skin, nose and eyes, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, headaches, psychological problems, allergies, musculoskeletal and dermal injuries [5, 6].
Apart from the social atrocities that workers face, they are exposed to certain health problems by virtue of their occupation . In order to work, especially at physically demanding jobs such as solid waste collection, the worker must be relatively healthy. In this environment, the worker’s health is his/her greatest asset and a precondition for the sustainable generation of income. Protection of workers from occupational hazards depend on availability and proper utilization of protective equipments, which in low and middle income countries is in short supply with very limited monitoring of their utilization . Moreover, refuse workers often lack training, tools and information in order to perform their work in the best healthy and safe manner. In addition to these, routine medical checkup program for all solid waste collectors is mandatory to keep them safe and secure [7, 9, 10].
Municipal solid waste in Addis Ababa (AA) city is collected manually which requires repeated heavy physical activities such as lifting, carrying, pulling, and pushing. The waste awaiting collection is readily available to insects and rodents and scavenging animals which are potential carriers of enteric pathogens. It also transferred from any kind of household container into sacks or directly into a pushcart which is often pushed over rough, unpaved or cobbled, inclined roads to collection sites. Then, it is manually emptied in to a bigger container having a volume of 8 m3 or in to a refuse truck. Workers are less protected in all efforts of refuse collection. Neither pre-employment nor periodical medical checkups are inaccessible to this group of workers.
The provision of house to house refuse collection service is a recent practice in AA. Occupational related studies are lacking given that the possible exposure of workers to various work related hazards might exist. Information to policy makers to improve the working condition as a result is limited. Therefore, this study was designed to investigate the magnitude of occupational injuries and contributing factors among solid waste collectors in AA city.