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Safety Spot

Picking up and handling trash is not only a dirty business — it's an unsafe one as well.

Picking up and handling trash is not only a dirty business — it's an unsafe one as well. All too often, we see media reports of fatal accidents involving waste workers, and statistics compiled by the federal government show that waste collection is one of the 10 most dangerous jobs in the country.

Now for the good news: the industry's safety record has improved significantly during the past decade. The industry's injury and illness rate declined by 37 percent from 2003 to 2009, and the number of collection fatalities dropped by just more than 38 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, keeping workers safe is a never-ending and difficult task. Here at Waste Age, we are committed to providing top-notch analysis and advice on this (literally) life-and-death issue. In this month's issue, we have three articles dealing with the topic. Our cover story, "A Continuous Challenge", is written by David Biderman, general counsel for the National Solid Wastes Management Association and the head of the organization's safety education programs. In this article, Biderman provides a detailed overview of the operational and regulatory challenges facing safety managers in 2011.

Biderman also writes "Safety First," a monthly column for Waste Age. In this month's installment — "A Deadly December" — he details a series of fatal accidents that took place in the last month of 2010. The point is to again highlight the various and substantial safety challenges facing the industry. In "A Perfect Fit", Matt Gartner of XL Speciality Insurance Co. pinpoints the ways haulers can improve workplace ergonomics and thus hopefully reduce employee injuries and the considerable financial toll those injuries can take on a waste firm's operations.

You can always turn to Waste Age for the latest information on how to improve your organization's safety performance. If there are specific safety topics that you would like to see us cover in the future, please e-mail me at [email protected].

  • On a much less serious note, I strongly encourage your to check out the inaugural edition of "Commingled Conversation", a monthly lighthearted Q&A with a waste industry figure that is designed to shed light on their personalities and interests. This month's interviewee is Bruce Parker of the EIA. I think you will enjoy's Bruce's responses.