Health & Wellness

Risky Careers: Waste Management Workers

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by Annabel Cooper

To understand how critical waste management workers are to our overall health and safety, imagine what would happen if they all went on a two-week holiday.

Imagine the smells, the ants, the cockroaches, the rats, and the horrendous mess that would build up all over the island. This is what these essential men and women manage every day and keeping them safe isn’t just a priority for their managers, it should be a priority for us too.

“As a community, to help with the waste issue, properly secure [it],” says Kenten Trott, owner and founder of Secure BDA, which specialises in residential as well as commercial waste management. “Rats can eat through anything. If the bag is out on the roadside overnight and then a rat gets it, when [the team] goes to lift it up, it’s all going to fall out.”

This is one of the many reasons he supplies his team with puncture resistant gloves. He also makes sure they wear steel toe boots and encourages long, thick trousers. “You’re lifting, you’re moving in and out the truck, in case something falls, for example, one of the bags rips and falls on your toes, it could be a glass bottle.”

Experience has also taught him to wear eye protection: “One time, I threw something in and some liquid came out and splashed on my face.” Luckily, he was ok.

“That’s why it’s so important to properly do waste, because in Bermuda, most of our trash is lifted by hand. That’s why it’s important to separate waste correctly and not put anything hazardous in that can hurt our workers.”

He also keeps supplies of hand sanitizer, wipes, soap, and water in the trucks at all times.

In addition to protective clothing and hand hygiene, Mr Trott has to keep on top of his trucks’ maintenance and ensure proper equipment training. He conducts rigorous safety checks on all his vehicles and makes sure everyone understands what must be done before driving off, and why, such as checking tyres, brakes, and warning lights.

Waste management requires long hours and hard, physical work, so ensuring both he and his team get enough rest is also a safety priority.

On a normal, busy day, work starts at around 7am and might not finish until 6pm. However, sometimes they need to start as early as 6am or finish as late as 2am, if cleaning up after a function.

He therefore tries to be as flexible as possible with working hours.

“For my team, what I make sure to do is not have them work extremely long hours, unless it’s really necessary, unless they’re able to do it. If they have to come in early today, then tomorrow they won’t have to come in as early.”

A father himself, he also believes in the importance of family: “If someone wants to come in early because their child has a football game at 5 o’clock, we try to be flexible with that. Work life balance is so important for me.”

Mr Trott, who is also a full-time police officer, inherited his work ethic from his father and grandfather, both of whom were truckers, and his business is very much a family affair. His father works for him and his brother’s company, Affordable Auto Mobile, fixes and maintains all the Secure BDA vehicles.

Mr Trott points out that he is only a small contractor and takes his hat off to the government waste management team, which is responsible for the whole island: “Appreciate all they have to go through,” he says. “Their job is critical.”

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