New York City Defective Garbage Compactor Law Firm


Garbage Compactor History

High powered garbage compactors have drastically increased the efficiency of sanitation collection in the United States and other countries. When the first garbage trucks were developed in the early 1900s, garbage collection was a slow process that required many trips to the dump. With the development of garbage compactors in the 1950s however, the truck was able to compact the refuse along the way, allowing a much greater amount of garbage to be collected between trips to the refuse station. Experts estimate that compaction allows sanitation trucks to pick up three times as much garbage as pre-compactor models.

This time and space saving technology spread quickly, and is utilized in many fields other than sanitation removal. Most retail stores will have at least one trash compactor or baler to dispose of cardboard boxes, and some large restaurants also employ garbage compactors. Each day, thousands of workers in a variety of jobs use garbage compactors.

Early trash compactors were powered by electric or diesel motors. Though able to generate enough power, these methods were expensive, time-consuming, space intensive, and extremely loud. Technologic advancements were necessary to increase the efficiency of trash compactors, particularly those used in garbage trucks. Some locations still use older garbage compactor technology, including retail stores and restaurants.

The key breakthrough for garbage truck compactors came with the introduction of hydraulic power. Hydraulic power is the key to garbage compactor efficiency. Power is generated by highly pressurized fluid (usually oil), similar to the system that powers the brakes on most vehicles, but on a much larger scale. The pressurized fluid spins a cylinder which drives a piston, and the piston is what generates the direct force to compact the garbage. This allows garbage compactors to leverage small amounts of electrical energy into significant force.

Garbage Compactor Accidents

Garbage compactors are comparatively simple machines, but there are still a number of moving parts. More importantly, the force generated by garbage compactors means the slightest accident can have major repercussions. Amputations and death are common occurrences when significant accidents occur with garbage compactors.

Garbage compactor accidents are most commonly caused by:

  • An operator attempting to clear a jam in the machine
  • Debris expelled at high speeds by the apparatus
  • Overheating parts caused by the extreme friction of the compactor
  • A lock or failsafe not functioning properly, allowing the machine to turn on when it should not

When these types of accidents occur, it is usually due to a material defect in the garbage compactor, either from improper maintenance or design defect. Though sanitation workers do their best never to reach into the compactor, there are times when it is necessary. Workers in charge of garbage compactor maintenance have a higher incidence of accident and injury because they must reach inside the compactor to service it. Retail workers also occasionally reach into the compactors or balers to extricate misfed materials. For safety reasons, metal rods should be used to clear these types of jams, but proper training is required for these tools to be used correctly.

The likelihood of these accidents occurring can be significantly decreased through the implementation of an interlock system. An interlock prevents the machine from turning on accidentally. These systems do require an extra step for the operator, which increases inconvenience, but the drastic increase in safety is worth any lost time. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends, but does not require, these types of interlock devices be used.

Garbage Compactor Injuries

Garbage compactors are designed to deliver significant force, and danger is inherent in that design. Many modern power tools are outfitted with devices that prevent them from functioning if human skin is determined to be in the danger zone. Unfortunately, garbage compactors are used to crush a variety of biologic materials, and these types of “fail-safes” would be difficult to implement.

Certain injuries are more commonly associated with garbage compactors than others. The most common include:

  • Amputations due to a body part being crushed or caught in the machine
  • Catastrophic and fatal crushing injuries to the head and body
  • Burns, due to the superheating of metal caused by the friction of the mechanical operation of the compactor

Because of the significant injures likely to occur when a garbage compactor accident happens, proper safety protocol is important. Every business that uses a garbage compactor should have clear safety guidelines posted, and these guidelines should be followed precisely. All new employees should be given proper safety training related to these guidelines.

One of the most important safety considerations is for workers to be empowered to report problems with the machines. Since these types of accidents are usually caused by machine malfunction rather than user error, teaching workers what to look out for is key. In particular, workers should be taught to ensure that all the device “fail-safes” are working properly, particularly those having to do with the machine turning on and shutting off.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a garbage compactor accident, it is likely that some aspect of the safety plan was insufficient or failed. Oftentimes it is because the machine itself was unsafe, often due to design defect or faulty production. Determining precisely what went wrong will be extremely important, both for your own state of mind and to prevent future incidents.

Knowing how to proceed to determine what went wrong can be difficult, particularly when it comes to determining liability. An experienced attorney will know how to proceed, and can gain access to all the important documents and information you need to make your case. New York City law firm Finz & Finz, P.C., has years of experience helping people determine the cause of their accidents. Finz & Finz, P.C., telephone number is (855) TOP-FIRM, or you can fill out the Free Garbage Compactor Accident Case Evaluation Form online.