By John Paglia, III

Trash in and of itself is a dangerous mystery. When we sell our services to commercial and residential customers, we try to pinpoint their waste stream. Without even venturing into special waste, let’s refine this article to C&D material and municipal solid waste. We as haulers know the difference between the two, but we also know that these waste streams are frequently mixed with unacceptable material. Just because a roll-off container was sold as C&D, doesn’t always mean that’s how it will end up by the time a container is full. Even if your customer knows the difference, it will not stop public from dumping when having an annual garage/shed cleanout.

Dangers can occur in all shapes and sizes. While it is tough to classify all of them, we can list the common occurrences. Common hazards can include but are not limited to: old gasoline, paint containers, propane tanks, pool acids, batteries, old ammunition, varmint (dead or alive), fluorescent light bulbs, tires, oil, needles, sharp metal, medical waste, thorn yard waste and broken glass. The sad part about this is many customers know these are prohibited. The true danger occurs when customers try to disguise these items. These dangers can be better spotted while manually loading the garbage.  While using automated forms of pick up via side or front loader, these dangers may not be spotted until it’s too late. It is not uncommon for the worst-case scenario to occur. Trucks can explode or catch fire and burn to the ground causing harm for all involved.

There are also the unforeseen dangers to be aware of. One morning we had a front loader driver a few hours into his route. He was off to a great start and running smoothly. As he approached his next container the gates were closed and he immediately noticed trash all over the ground. He turned off his truck and grabbed a broom and shovel and started to clean up the mess. As he opened the lid to an 8-yard container, he quickly realized he was disturbing a hungry raccoon! The raccoon was responsible for the mess; he was also responsible for chasing my employee all the way back into his truck. He attempted to claw and gnaw on my employee as if the garbage was not enough. As soon as my driver was back in the truck the raccoon returned to his house. He was able to take a few photos before scaring the raccoon out of the can. In the moment the story was funny. It started my morning off on a light note. In all seriousness though, varmint carry diseases. If my employee was not wearing all of his PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), which included: boots, pants, safety vest and gloves, this funny story could have ended differently. Do not forget about snakes, wasps, bees, mosquitoes, spiders and even ants. All of these critters can carry diseases because who knows what they last fed on and may be carrying.

It is important to properly train your employees to be aware of the dangers and be able to spot hazards in the waste stream immediately. And be sure to follow up behind employees and ensure your safety policies are being carried out. It is just as important. | WA

John Paglia III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed theranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail or visit