The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland, has reported that 52 municipal solid waste industry workers were killed in 2020 in the United States and Canada, with nearly 70 percent occurring during collection. This data was shared by SWANA Advocacy & Safety Senior Manager Jesse Maxwell at SWANA’s virtual Safety Summit Feb. 25.
The most common type of fatal event was the single-vehicle accident in which only a waste collection vehicle was involved. The second-most-common fatality was being struck by a waste collection vehicle, either as a helper or when a driver was out of the cab. This suggests that rushing could be contributing to these incidents and that reminding collection crews of best practices for safety is needed, the association says.
“There continue to be too many avoidable fatal incidents in and involving the solid waste industry,” SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman says. “This trend has continued into 2021, with 17 fatal incidents recorded in the first two months of the year. We can and must do better.”
Collection fatalities remained steady in 2020 compared with 2019 and were up from 2018 when 42 occurred. Fatal incidents at landfills fell from 11 in 2019 to four in 2020, and material recovery facilities (MRFs) similarly saw a drop in worker deaths from four in 2019 to one last year. Fatalities at transfer stations increased from one in 2019 to three in 2020.
In addition to worker fatalities, SWANA also tracks events in which a member of the public is killed in a solid waste-related incident. In 2020, 76 members of the public in the United States and Canada were killed in collisions with a solid waste collection vehicle, with about 62 percent being vehicle collisions. Last year saw slightly fewer fatalities in members of the public than in 2019, when there were 80 fatalities. This continues the decline from 2018, when 101 members of the public died.
At the state level, New York had the most fatal incidents with 15, followed by California with 12, Texas with 11, Pennsylvania with nine and Florida with eight. New York and California have both been in the top five states in numbers of fatalities for the past three years.
In addition to presenting the 2020 fatality data, SWANA’s virtual Safety Summit brought together safety leaders from Waste Management, Republic, Waste Connections, Rumpke, Caterpillar and other employers who provided attendees with information on how to reduce collisions, injuries and accidents.
Recordings of the Safety Summit are available for sale at https://swana.org/safety-summit.
Additionally, to reduce fatal and nonfatal incidents across the solid waste industry, SWANA has developed several safety resources. SWANA’s latest addition is a new weekly newsletter, Safety Matters, which makes relevant safety guidance easily accessible to frontline employees and workers at all levels. SWANA encourages members to use this information at safety meetings and toolbox talks to remind workers of safety hazards associated with solid waste management and how to avoid them.
To learn more about SWANA’s Safety Initiatives, visit https://swana.org/initiatives/safety.