When doctors told the 47-year-old man in 2005 that his right knee joint was severely damaged and getting worse due to repetitive impact, he initially complained to an employer’s liability insurance association.
But the union neither recognised knee damage to be a common problem for waste disposal employees nor classed it as a work-related accident.
Rejecting this, the bin man, who had worked for a private rubbish collection service since 1993 took the case to the Hesse Regional Social Court in Darmstadt.
It ruled that his impact-heavy daily work – such as dragging and lifting wheelie bins all day – took a similar physical toll as that on a top athlete.
His work also caused injuries “seen in high performance athletes like football, handball or basketball players,” the court said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The difference is that if a professional athlete developed an injury to the meniscus – the rubbery shock absorbers around the knee – it would be recognised as work-related, enabling a claim for compensation.
The “significant time spent jumping and walking on uneven ground, teamed with jolting and twisting movements,” meant that “rubbish men experience much more impact on their knees that the rest of the average population,” said the court statement.