Special Report: Safety
Survey Findings Illustrate Lack of Awareness Over Dangers Waste & Recycling Workers Face

Survey Findings Illustrate Lack of Awareness Over Dangers Waste & Recycling Workers Face

When working around inattentive motorists, collecting waste and recyclables can be dangerous. A new survey shows us just how bad the problem is.

Survey data released today suggests that despite the fact that most Americans see garbage trucks on the road at least once a week, and over one-in-six Americans see them every day, they are given the least amount of respect compared to other service vehicles. In fact, Americans are more tempted to speed around garbage trucks than other service vehicles.

The survey was conducted among more than 2,000 adults in November 2014 by the Harris Poll and commissioned by the National Waste & Recycling Association.

Additionally, fewer than one-in-ten Americans are aware that garbage collection workers have a higher fatality rate compared to firefighting, police work, and ambulance workers.

There is hope of raising awareness around this, however, as 85 percent of Americans favor laws protecting garbage collectors on the roadways. When presented with U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that garbage collection has the highest fatality rate among service professions, even more indicated their support for such laws (90 percent).

NWRA is making strides in various states to make these laws a reality. The Association’s Slow Down to Get Around (SDTGA) campaign has promoted legislation to protect waste workers on America’s streets and roads. Through education and increased penalties for distracted drivers and careless drivers, the SDTGA movement will make it safer for the industry’s workers to get their jobs done in American communities.  The NWRA SDTGA safety program has been endorsed by the federal National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  (For more information on SDTGA please go here.

Some highlights of the study:

  • Less than one-in-ten Americans—8 percent—believes that garbage collection has the highest fatality rate among the four professions listed (46 percent selected firefighting, 43 percent chose police work, and 3 percent think paramedic work has the highest fatality rate).
  • Nearly nine-in-ten (88 percent) see garbage trucks on the road at least once a week, and one-in-six (16 percent) Americans see garbage trucks on the road every day.
  • Americans, particularly men, are tempted to speed around garbage trucks more than any other kind of service vehicle, with nearly two-in-five (38 percent) admitting this. Distant second is a school bus (8 percent), followed by a police car and fire truck (both 3 percent), an ambulance (2 percent), and other service vehicles (8 percent).
  • Only about one-third (32 percent) of Americans slow down around garbage trucks. Far more Americans hit the brakes around ambulances (77 percent), police cars (76 percent), fire trucks (72 percent), and school buses (69 percent).

When presented with the statement…”I am in favor of laws protecting garbage collectors on this country’s roadways.” a majority (85 percent) of Americans are in favor, with one-third (33 percent) strongly agreeing

  • Upon being informed that garbage collectors have the highest fatality rate among public service professions (according to BLS data) the percentage of Americans agreeing went up to nine-in-ten (90 percent), with nearly half (48 percent) strongly agreeing with this statement.

This survey was conducted online in the United States from November 11-13, 2014, among 2,012 adults ages 18 and older by Harris Poll on behalf of National Waste & Recycling Association. This survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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