Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jun 1;19(11):6791. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19116791.
Background: Solid waste workers are exposed to a plethora of occupational hazards and may also experience work-related stress. Our study had three specific hypotheses: (1) waste workers experience effort−reward imbalance (ERI) with high self-reported effort but low reward, (2) unionized workers experience greater ERI, and (3) workers with higher income have lower ERI. Methods: Waste workers from three solid waste sites in Michigan participated in this cross-sectional study. We characterized perceived work stress using the short-version ERI questionnaire. Descriptive statistics and linear tests for trend were assessed for each scale. Linear regression models were constructed to examine the relationship between structural factors of work stress and ERI. Gradient-boosted regression trees evaluated which factors of effort or reward best characterize workers’ stress. Results: Among 68 participants, 37% of workers reported high effort and low reward from work (ERI > 1). Constant pressure due to heavy workload was most indicative of ERI among the solid waste workers. Union workers experienced 79% times higher ERI than non-unionized workers, while no significant differences were observed by income, after adjusting for confounders. Conclusions: Organizational-level interventions, such as changes related to workload, consideration of fair compensation, and increased support from supervisors, can decrease work stress.