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Manual Transfer of Mobile Industrial Waste Containers

  • Issued: December 31, 2014
  • Content last reviewed: December 2014

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Workers are at an increased risk of injury when manually pushing or pulling mobile industrial waste containers (also known as "dumpsters"). They can develop musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) or receive other injuries if struck by the waste container or a vehicle.

MSDs are injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system, including muscles, tendons, nerves and spinal discs. They can develop as a result of ongoing exposure to MSD hazards such as repetitive work, forceful exertions such as heavy lifting and pushing, and awkward postures.


Large metal mobile waste disposal containers are used at many workplaces, including factories, condominiums, high-rise apartment buildings, shopping plazas and educational facilities.

These bins are constructed of steel and typically range in capacity from 1.5 to 4.6 cubic meters. The figure below illustrates a typical container.

Figure 1: Waste Disposal Container

Picture of Waste Disposal Container.

In some buildings, these containers must be moved from an indoor location (where they have been filled) to an outdoor area where they will be emptied by a disposal truck. Containers filled with recycled waste and organic material may also be moved outdoors for pickup. Workers may have to manually push or pull the containers when powered equipment is not available to perform this task.


Musculoskeletal disorder hazards

The forces required to manually push or pull a container can be excessive. Workers can face an increased risk of developing an MSD due to overexertion when manually pushing or pulling a container.

The amount of force required to perform this task depends on the weight of the container and the waste inside, the size and condition of the container, the type, size and condition of the castors, and the surface along which the container is moved. Also, if the floor surface is cracked or damaged or there are changes in elevation, sudden increases in the amount of the force that must be exerted by the worker to keep the container moving or control its path may occur, further increasing the risk of developing an MSD.

Struck by incidents

Workers, pedestrians or vehicles can be struck by a waste container if a worker loses control of a container while moving it. There is an increased risk of a worker losing control of the container when manually moving it on a sloped surface such as a ramp. Forces are greater when pushing a container up a ramp and when trying to control the container when moving it down a ramp. Also, containers are often moved in areas where there is vehicular traffic, so safeguards must be in place to ensure that workers maneuvering the container are not struck by vehicles.

Some related legislative and regulatory requirements

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers must:

  • Ensure equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition (clause 25(1)(b)). This would include maintenance of castors and containers.
  • Provide information, instruction and supervision to workers (clause 25(2)(a)) and acquaint workers with any hazard in the work and in the handling… and transport of any article… or equipment… (clause 25(2)(d)).
  • Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker (clause 25(2)(h)). This may include protecting workers from the hazards of manually moving mobile industrial waste containers when it increases the risk of developing an MSD or being involved in a struck-by incident.

Under the Regulation for Industrial Establishments, employers must:

  • Ensure materials, articles or things are moved in such a way that does not endanger the safety of any worker (section 45).
  • Ensure a floor or other surface used by any worker is kept free of obstructions, hazards and accumulations of refuse, snow or ice (subsection 11(a)).
  • Ensure barriers, warning signs or other safeguards for the protection of all workers in an area are used where vehicle or pedestrian traffic may endanger the safety of any worker (section 20).

Recommended precautions and control measures

To reduce the risk of injury to workers moving industrial waste bins, the following are recommended best practices that an employer can take:

  • Provide powered equipment such as container pullers/tuggers or tractors with an adequate hitch capable of supporting the loads that may be applied to it.
  • Use casters with features that reduce push/pull efforts to acceptable limits (i.e. related to the design, materials, type of bearings, axles, etc.).
  • Ensure two or more workers move a container if it’s not possible to use powered equipment. Force measurements may be required to verify that push/pull efforts will not increase the risk of developing an MSD. An ergonomist can assist in determining acceptable limits and safe practices for moving mobile industrial waste bins.

More information

More information on manual material handling, ergonomics, and MSDs can be found at

Toll-free number

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. Call 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for general questions about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.

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Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.