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Robotic Arm Takes Waste Management from 3 Employees per Truck to 1

Happy Wednesday, dear readers!

Ok, gather round – it’s story time!

When your humble blogger was but a young lad, knee-high to a grasshopper, he lived in the Sunset area of San Francisco.  There, garbage and recycle was collected by a company called Sunset Scavenger, and the operation was a simple one.  A driver would pull up to each house, two garbage collectors stood on the back of the truck, and then would start gathering all the bins to place into the garbage truck.

Well, fast forward many, many years, and as your humble blogger was dropping off his bright-eyed and bushy-tailed children in the morning, we were treated to the sight of a Recology truck.  The truck had a single driver and the bins were picked up by a robotic arm on the side, and then poured into the truck and replaced.  We watched him hit several houses without having to get out once.

The occupation code for “Garbage Collector, Manual” is 560, which carries an occupational variant of “G”, “H”, or “I” for almost every body part in the PDRS.  Although, in fairness, you could probably argue for a lower code if the job involves rolling the bin to an automated loader, rather than pouring the contents of the bin oneself.

But, in a relatively short span of time, investing in a more mechanized garbage truck helps Recology not only eliminate two jobs, but also the two jobs most likely to have the serious injuries of (1) back and leg strain; and (2) chemical exposure from the trash/needles/etc.

And, make no mistake – that one garbage truck driver’s job isn’t that safe either…

As far as your humble blogger knows, Recology is permissibly self-insured, so one might think that the logic here is limited to those situations – there’s one pocket shared by the employer and the workers’ comp account, so of course self-insured employers would benefit from such investment and upgrades.

But that’s not the case – whether you are California’s largest self-insurer or a mom-and-pop shop with a single part-time employee, avoiding injuries will avoid the costs of complying with California’s mandatory workers’ compensation insurance requirements.

Every employer would benefit from such thinking and exploring ways to minimize the manual activity of the employees.

Now, before you get all South Park on me and complain that the evil robots are taking our jobs, just a few thoughts to consider.

dey tuk aar juubs

The jobs eliminated by automation are not an act of theft – you’re not entitled to a job.  But, they free up labor to do other things.  Also, the quality of life for everyone, including the poor waste management employees who had to find other work, is improved – they now get yet another service (waste collection and processing) cheaper than they had it before.

Frankly, the only job I’m truly concerned about is mine as a defense attorney – if no one gets hurt, whose claims will I help deny?  At least there is always the lucrative field of blogging…

Onward to Friday, dear readers!

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