Safety when working with Compacting Trucks

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A safety alert has been issued by WorkSafe WA relating to compacting waste truck’s operations. These vehicles are particularly hazardous because they have the potential to affect workers involved with waste collection and disposal, pedestrians and other road users.

Over the last 2 years an alarmingly high number of incidents occurred, resulting in 13 serious injuries of 60+ days and 35 injuries of five+ days related to solid waste collection with compacting waste trucks.

1. Particularly concerning incidents resulted in fatalities after a worker was crushed between the vehicle and a wall and another was hit by the vehicle while it was reversing.

Some of the incidents that may occur with compacting truck operation include, people being struck by compaction trucks, other vehicles or the tailgate. People can also be crushed by the tailgate or in the compactor of the vehicle.  There is also the possibility of falling from a height, slipping, tripping or falling on the same level, injuries due to manual tasks, sharps and biological waste, fatigue, environmental hazards including extremes of temperature, UV exposure,  hazards associated with work near overhead power lines and noise.

According to Australian regulations employers have the responsibility of assessing risks and identifying hazards that may arise due to specific tasks. Once the hazards are identified they can be either eliminated or action can be taken to minimise the risk associated with the hazard. Employers should ensure that workers are trained, educated and instructed on how to safely operate the compacting truck and follow the safety procedures as specified by the company’s policy.

According to the website, WorkSafe suggests taking the following action thereafter:

2. Employers should make themselves aware of any available compacting waste truck safety features which may eliminate hazards or reduce their risk such as:

  • Reversing cameras, audible alarms, lights and mirrors.
  • Use of tailgate props (always stay clear of un-propped tailgate).
  • Manufacturer’s recommended closing times for tailgates.
  • Emergency stops.
  • Audible alarms which sound when the driver’s door is opened and the vehicle handbrake is not fully engaged.
  • Communication systems between driver and assistants.
  • Speed limiting devices.
  • Safety signage.

 3. Reversing causes a disproportionately large number of moving vehicle accidents in the waste/recycling industry, therefore wherever possible reversing should be eliminated or the reversing distance reduced.

  • Where reversing cannot be eliminated, a risk assessment may indicate that use of reversing aids alone is insufficient to adequately control the risks during reversing. In these circumstances:
  • Trained reversing assistants should be used.
  • The reversing assistant should stand 5-10 m back and 1 m out from the side of the vehicle, on the pavement wherever possible, so that the driver can see them at all times.
  • Where direct eye-contact is not practicable at all times, there should be other means of communication between the driver and the reversing assistant, such as two way radio or mobile phone contact.


If you require more information about the alert or advice on the subject, visit WorkSafe’s website:

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