Imagine life without trash collectors. Garbage would pile up and get smelly, or residents would have to transport their trash to far-off landfills themselves. Sanitation workers, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as refuse and recyclable material collectors, perform vital services under sometimes hazardous conditions.
Separate Trash and Recyclable Materials
Sanitation workers do more than ride on trucks and pick up trash and recyclable materials. They sort the debris, making sure it lands in the appropriate compactor compartments on trucks. Drivers arrange routes, operate hydraulic lifting devices that hoist garbage bins and dump them in truck compactors. They also communicate with dispatchers, drive trucks to dumping venues, keep track of road and weather conditions on their routes, and perform routine repairs and maintenance on their vehicles.
Hazards of the Job
A sanitation worker usually works day hours, often starting early in the morning before rush hour. Shifts typically are from eight to 10 hours or longer, depending on the municipalities in which they're employed. All sanitation workers face certain hazards on the job, including getting hit by cars. They also may handle contaminated needles, volatile chemicals and acids, or flammable substances.
Most sanitation worker jobs do not specify require any minimum schooling. Most receive on-the-job training for several days or as long as three months. Drivers are usually required to have commercial driver's licenses, or CDLs, which involves training and passing written, skills and vision tests. Sanitation workers who remove hazardous materials require additional training specified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The average salary of a sanitation worker was $35,280 as of May 2013, according to the BLS. This equates to $16.96 per hour. The top 10 percent earned more than $58,130 annually. The state of New York paid their sanitation workers the highest salaries of $52,030 a year, while those in Washington made the second highest salaries -- $49,820 a year. Sanitation workers in Ohio earned salaries closer to the national average at $35,360 a year. Those in South Carolina made the least, among the states listed, at $23,190.
Promising Job Growth
The BLS estimates a 16 percent increase in employment for refuse and recyclable material collectors, including sanitation workers, from 2012 to 2022. This is faster than the 11 percent national average for all jobs. Many states expect more jobs as they increase their efforts to collect recyclable materials.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Hand Laborers and Material Movers Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Hand Laborer or Material Mover
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Hand Laborers and Material Movers: Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors
- ONET Online: Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors
- Photo Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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