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Sanitation worker uses work injury to highlight safety issues

Sanitation workers perform a thankless task, one that most people do not want to do; take out the garbage. In Wisconsin, a sanitation worker who suffered a work injury while performing this unpopular but vital service, was committed to making sure that something positive would come out of his severe injuries. He succeeded.

Wisconsin's governor recently signed a bill that doubles fines for driving offenses such as speeding and illegal passing in areas around sanitation workers. This is similar to the laws that exist for road construction or maintenance crews. According to the National Solid Wastes Management Association, there are as many as eight deaths and numerous injuries of sanitation workers while on the job every year. This worker was very nearly one of those fatalities. In January of this year, he was pinned against his truck by a car that rammed into him.

The injured sanitation worker was advocating for these changes prior to his own injury in January and remained a solid supporter throughout his recovery. Workers compensation covered the cost of the 29 surgeries, the prosthetic leg he now has, and his rehabilitation services in addition to lost wages and other expenses. Vocational rehabilitation will also be a part of this man's recovery. Knowing what benefits are available through workers' compensation and how to initiate the claims process can be very important for those injured on the job.

This man believes that the number of sanitation workers who die or suffer a work injury due to careless drivers can be reduced under this new Wisconsin law. In addition to workers' compensation benefits, injured workers may be able to file civil claims against drivers who cause injury through their negligence. Doubling fines and penalties for traffic violations around sanitation workers may not eliminate such accidents altogether, but it may reduce them by making those who injure these workers pay for their behavior.

Source: deseretnews.com, "Injured sanitation worker joins Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for bill signing," Scott Bauer, July 18, 2013

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