Solid Waste & Recycling


U.S. waste industry deaths up 18% in 2017

Last year saw an 18% increase in waste management related deaths, with 132 recorded fatalities, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has announced.

SWANA records and investigates fatal incidents that involve solid waste management as part of its mission, and releases industry data to create a better understanding of the state of safety in the solid waste industry and where improvements are necessary.

In 2017, there were 94 members of the public killed and 38 workers on the job, with over 75% of the incidents involving a private sector solid waste company.

“I am disappointed in the waste industry’s safety performance in 2017 based on the fatality-related data that SWANA maintains,” said David Biderman, SWANA’s Executive Director and CEO, in a statement. “There were an unacceptable number of preventable fatal incidents involving our trucks and equipment,” he added.

The majority of deaths involving a member of the public occurred on roadways, with 60% involving a solid waste vehicle and at least one other vehicle. Sixteen of these cases involved the other vehicle crossing into the lane of an oncoming waste vehicle. Ultimately, there were 94 third-party fatalities: 57 were drivers of or passengers in other vehicles; 23 were pedestrians; eight were bicyclists; four were motorcyclists; and two occurred at disposal facilities.

Of the 38 workers who died on the job in 2017, approximately 60% were killed during collection, while  21% died at a landfill, with the remainder occurring at Material Recovery Facilities, transfer stations and other locations. A disproportionate number of these incidents involved small companies, usually haulers with fewer than 20 trucks. Half of the fatalities that occurred at landfills were drivers working on or around their trucks at the time of the incident, and two of them were spotters.

“We need to do a better job of communicating to front line workers the importance of wearing safety belts while in the truck, lockout-tagout, and backing carefully, in order to mitigate the risk of preventable accidents,” added Biderman.

Consistent with previous years, solid waste workers died in a wide variety of ways, including being struck by their own truck, falling off the riding step, and colliding with other vehicles on the road and equipment at disposal facilities. In four of the 37 fatal incidents, a collection worker was struck and killed by another vehicle.

SWANA says it is proud to support recent efforts to pass Slow Down to Get Around (SDTGA) legislation in several states, including South Carolina, Kansas, Ohio and Maryland. Recently passed in Nebraska, 17 states now have SDTGA laws on the books.

For more information on SWANA’s Safety Program, visit:

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