Safety Success

Waste industry fatalities down substantially in 2009.

Fatalities among solid waste collection workers declined markedly in 2009 when compared with 2008, according to statistics recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

In its "Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries," the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says there were 31 fatalities among solid waste collection workers (the bureau includes both refuse and recyclable collectors in that category) in 2009. The number represents a 39 percent decrease from the year before, when 19 fatalities among collection workers occurred, according to BLS.

The number of fatalities among all "waste management and remediation service employees" — a category that includes both collection and landfill workers — declined from 74 in 2008 to 43 in 2009, a decrease of 42 percent, according to BLS.

"We are very pleased that the solid waste industry reduced the number of workplace fatalities in 2009," said National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) Safety Director David Biderman in a press release. "According to NSWMA data, the leading cause of waste collection worker fatality is being struck by another vehicle, and we will continue to work with members, regulators and others to educate the public about this hazard."

In 2009, seven waste collection workers died as a result of being struck by another vehicle, and at least four collection employees have died that way in 2010, Biderman added.

(For a full analysis of the fatality statistics, read Biderman's "Safety First" column)

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