Injury rates for waste workers increase, although data shows some reasons for optimism

Injury rates for waste workers increase, although data shows some reasons for optimism

The waste and recycling industry had an increased rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses per 100 FTE workers, according to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

Subscribe
November 7, 2019

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its 2018 Employer-Reported Injury and Illness Report Nov. 7.

There were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2018, which occurred at a rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. This represents no change from 2017. While the injury rates were static overall, the data specific to the waste and recycling sectors showed the industry still has major safety challenges.

The waste and recycling industry had an increased rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses per 100 FTE workers. Year over year, the rate for general waste collection workers increased from 5.0 to 5.5. Solid waste collections saw the same year over year change. On a positive note, material recovery facility workers saw a significant injury rate decrease from 9.8 to 4.9 per 100 employees. Similarly, injury rates for solid waste landfill workers decreased from 5.3 to 3.9 per 100 employees.

“The decrease at landfills and MRFs is promising, but today’s numbers show that we have yet to make real progress out on the roads where our collections workers face numerous hazards on a daily basis. We need to redouble our efforts and make sure that we are doing all that we can to protect our employees. The numbers today demonstrate that we have serious challenges ahead,” National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) President CEO Darrell Smith says.

In a release announcing the BLS data, NWRA announced it is committed to working with its members to make sure waste workers come home safely each day. Thirty states have passed Slow Down to Get Around laws that help to protect drivers and helpers when collecting refuse, and the association is working to expand the adoption of these laws.

NWRA is also leading the effort to reducing injuries and fatalities in the industry through its engagement with other associations. In particular, the NWRA notes that its alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its partnership with the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF), where the agencies are requesting proposals to provide a baseline analysis for what is occurring in the industry, are instrumental in the push for safer operations.