Statistics Administrative/support/waste management/remediation

Sanitation worker deaths down slightly, but still high: analysis

'It's pretty dangerous to be a garbage man'

Silver Spring, MD — At least 30 sanitation workers died from on-the-job injuries in the first seven months of this year – a 9.1% decrease from the same period last year, according to a recent Solid Waste Association of North America analysis.

SWANA examined fatality data from organization members as well as newspaper and online reports. Findings showed that 27 of the deaths reported through July 31 occurred in the United States, while three were in Canada.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that, in 2017, refuse and recyclable material collectors experienced a rate of 35 fatal workplace injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.

“Solid waste collection is the fifth most dangerous job in the United States; we need to reduce the frequency of incidents involving our workers and vehicles,” SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman said in an Aug. 13 press release.

SWANA recorded 59 work-related fatalities in the industry in 2018. The organization reported 17 sanitation workers were killed in North America over the first three weeks of this year, a development it called “unprecedented” and “unacceptable.”

SWANA’s safety tips for sanitation workers include:

  • Wear personal protective equipment, especially high-visibility vests and/or outerwear.
  • Never use cellphones while driving garbage trucks or at a disposal facility.
  • Buckle up.

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