Auckland Council enlists help of expert physiotherapists to prevent bin collector injuries

Physically demanding jobs can place a lot of pressure on workers' bodies.

Musculoskeletal strain is the biggest cause of absence from work in New Zealand over a seven-day period.

So when it came to introducing food scrap collection bins in Auckland, the council called in the professionals to make sure the bin collectors were kept safe.

It's tough physical work, weaving between cars, collecting and emptying 1000 bins every shift, but the physical strain on workers in this case isn't bad.

"[I'm] not too much in pain, just normal, just tired after work, that's it," said driver Amandeep Singh.

And that's by design - since Auckland Council called in the professionals to assess the whole process of collecting food scraps.

Prototypes of the little green bins were designed with the collector front of mind, and it's believed to be a first in the country.

"Through just adding some additional height, that ideally would be to reduce the amount of flexing and bending the collectors would be involved in," said AUT physiotherapy Professor Mark Boocock.

Prof Boocock and his team analysed the stress on workers' bodies in the lab.

"The manual handling of it, the repetitive nature of the work, the cumulative loads they were handling. In these cases the bins could weigh up to 20kg at a time," he told Newshub.

AUT Professor Mark Boocock used 3D digital models to help design a safer bin.
AUT Professor Mark Boocock used 3D digital models to help design a safer bin. Photo credit: Newshub.

Employers are legally obliged to protect workers from risk, and this kind of mahi is the leading cause of work-related injuries in New Zealand.

"Musculoskeletal stress and manual handling particularly the lifting, carrying, and pulling down of objects," said Prof Boocock.

And then there's the costs with ACC.

"In terms of rehabilitation, the medical costs - but you also need to look further."

International research estimates between 4 and 8 percent of GDP is lost through work-related injuries.

A lot of work has gone into Auckland Council's new food scraps system, and in practice it's almost seamless.

"It's not too hard, because we just check for contamination and just throw it out. Sometimes it's hard when cars are in the way," Singh told Newshub.

But some things can't be helped.

"If we can get it right in the first instance through design, we potentially alleviate a lot of the costs and ultimately the suffering," Prof Boocock said.