Administrative/support/waste management/remediation

Sanitation worker deaths down in first half of 2021: analysis

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

Silver Spring, MD — At least 12 sanitation workers suffered fatal injuries on the job during the first six months of the year – a 57.1% decrease from the same period in 2020, according to a recent analysis conducted by the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Reviewing preliminary data from organization members as well as newspaper and online reports, SWANA found that all of the deaths reported through June 25 occurred in the United States. Additionally, at least 43 civilian fatalities associated with industry operations happened during the first six months of this year – 39 in the United States and four in Canada. Although the organization says this total is on par with that of previous years, SWANA found that civilian deaths related to struck-by collection vehicle incidents have increased. The organization reports that 12 such fatalities have occurred during the first six months of 2021 compared with 13 for all of 2020.

In a press release, SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman said the organization “is pleased by the decline in fatal incidents recorded in the first half of 2021,” which continues a trend of period reductions observed since 2018.

However, Biderman adds, “I am concerned about a seasonal uptick in accidents and injuries over the summer and urge government agencies, solid waste companies, and others to remind frontline workers about best practices and consider technological and operational changes that can improve their safety performance.”


SWANA 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.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)