Measured by the oxygen uptake in the field, the work of refuse collectors is particularly hard work: Are the limit values for physical endurance workload too low?

Preisser, Alexandra; Zhou, Linfei; Garrido, Marcial; Harth, Volker.

International Archives of Occupational  and Environmental Health, February 2016, Vol. 89 Issue: Number 2
p211-220, 10p;

Abstract: Collecting waste is regarded as a benchmark
for “particularly heavy” work. This study aims to determine and compare
the workload of refuse workers in the field. We examined heart rate
(HR) and oxygen uptake as parameters of workload during their daily
work.   Sixty-five refuse collectors from three  task-specific groups
(residual and organic waste collection, and street
sweeping) of the municipal sanitation department in Hamburg, Germany,
were included. Performance was determined by cardiopulmonary exercise
testing (CPX) under laboratory conditions. Additionally, the oxygen
uptake (VO2) and HR under field conditions (1-h morning shift) were
recorded with a portable spiroergometry system and a pulse belt.
There was a substantial correlation of both absolute HR and
VO2during CPX [HR/VO2 R 0.89 (SD 0.07)] as well as during field
measurement [R0.78 (0.19)]. Compared to reference limits for heavy
work, 44 % of the total sample had shift values above 30 % heart rate
reserve (HRR); 34 % of the individuals had mean HR during work (HRsh)
values that were above the HR corresponding to 30 % of individual
maximum oxygen uptake (VO2,max). All individuals had a mean oxygen
uptake (VO2,1h) above 30 % of VO2,max.
HR as well as the measurement of VO2can be valuable tools for investigating
physiological workload, not only under laboratory conditions but also
under normal working conditions in the field. Both in terms of absolute
and relative HR and oxygen consumption, employment as a refuse
collector should be classified in the upper range of defined heavy
work. The limit of heavy work at about 33 % of the individual maximum
load at continuous work should be reviewed.