Thirty-four U.S. waste and recycling collectors died on the job in 2011, up 31 per cent over the previous year, says a new study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The grim finding moves the solid waste and recycling industry up to the fourth most dangerous profession in the U.S., up from no. 7 in 2010.
“We are concerned that the new federal data shows a reversal of the great progress we made as an industry during the past decade,” stated National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) Safety Director David Biderman in a statement on the stat.
According to Biderman, many of 2011s industry deaths occurred at small hauler facilities outside the association’s safety standards.
“We intend to redouble our efforts to reach these small haulers and provide them with safety tools to prevent these tragic accidents,” Biderman added. “We cannot allow this troubling trend to continue.”
The bureau report states that waste and recyclable material collectors had a fatal injury rate of 41.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2011, compared to a rate of 29.8 per 100,000 in 2010.
Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also discovered a link between worker injuries and their connection with public versus private industry. At the recent Wastecon event in Washington, D.C., David F. Utterback, a senior health scientist at NIOSH, stated that public waste workers are four times more likely to get sick than their private counterparts.
Utterback discovered 4,017 public workers missed at least one day of work annually between 2008 and 2010. That compares with an annual average of 1,070 collection workers in the private sector.
However, Utterback did note that private industry may be underreporting incidents and benefitting from more up-to-date equipment.
Whether public or private, Biderman urges all haulers and governments to participate in NSWMA safety programs, including Safety Monday, regional training events, the Be Safe Be Proud video series and the Slow Down to Get Around (SDTGA) program. He wants industry to communicate the importance of working safely, and learn more about how facilities can help protect workers.
“Safety has been and continues to be an important focus for NSWMA and its members,” Biderman said. “We are working to better understand the root causes of these accidents so we can provide better safety-related information to the industry.”
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