|Silver Spring, MD – Solid waste collection workers continued to have the 5th deadliest job in the U.S. in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The 2016 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released today shows that the rate of fatalities among waste collection workers decreased by more than ten percent last year, but has not changed the industry’s ranking among the deadliest occupations (see charts).
Solid waste collection workers (NAICS 562111) had a rate of 34.1 fatalities per 100,000 full-time employees in 2016, compared to 38.8 in 2015. In 2016, 31 collection workers were killed on the job, compared to 36 the year before.
“SWANA is pleased that the overall collection worker fatality rate declined a bit in 2016, but remains very concerned about the high frequency of fatal incidents involving solid waste workers and third-parties, such as other drivers or pedestrians.” said David Biderman, SWANA Executive Director and CEO. “However, the sad truth is that we are still the 5th most dangerous job in America, with a higher workplace fatality rate than police officers or fire fighters. This is no time to take a victory lap.”
With 9 fatalities reported among solid waste landfill employees (NAICS 562212) in 2016, that sector also saw a decrease in total fatalities from a high of 11 deaths in 2015. During the three years before that, landfills only recorded 3 fatalities per year, so the current numbers remain high compared to other years.
Fatality data for material recovery facility (MRF) workers in 2016 show one reported on-the-job death, though the overall data for this sector did not meet publication criteria, and therefore no total was listed. In 2015, 3 fatalities occurred among MRF workers. In November, MRFs (NAICS 562920) were listed by BLS as one of the 25 industries with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work, restricted work, or job transfer.
Though BLS data for 2017 will not be available until late 2018, SWANA has recorded more than 100 fatal incidents involving the waste sector in the U.S., with 30 waste workers and 70 third-parties killed this year.
“I, along with my SWANA colleagues, view even one waste worker fatality as way too many,” said Ken Levine, SWANA NY Safety Ambassador and Director of Risk Management at Action Carting. “Though movements such as “Slow Down To Get Around” are creating some awareness surrounding the daily risks of collection workers, the industry needs the general public to understand how dangerous the work is, and be aware of how their actions contribute to the daily safety of our workers.”
Small haulers continue to represent a disproportionate share of injuries and fatalities in the solid waste industry, and with that in mind, SWANA and its Chapter-based Safety Ambassadors are developing a toolkit aimed at small haulers in their regions. Through special outreach events held at landfills, MRFs and transfer stations across North America, SWANA intends to provide safety resources, in a variety of languages, to the most vulnerable workers, reduce accidents, and help move solid waste collection off the top 5 list of deadliest jobs.
SWANA will continue to monitor industry injuries and fatalities and expand its safety program to provide resources for front-line workers and supervisors in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, offer safety training, and partner with other organizations who share our mission to move solid waste collection employees off the list of ten most dangerous jobs.
For more information SWANA’s Safety Program, visit swana.org/safety.
The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is an organization of more than 9,000 public and private sector professionals committed to advancing from solid waste management to resource management through their shared emphasis on education, advocacy, and research. For more than 50 years, SWANA has been the leading association in the solid waste management field. SWANA serves industry professionals through technical conferences, certifications, publications, and a large offering of technical training courses. For more information, visit swana.org.