The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its "2017 Employer-reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses" report, which shows improvements in safety within the solid waste collection industry consistent with the national trend. There were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2017, which occurred at a rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. This represents an improvement of 0.1 injuries per 100 FTE workers from 2016.
The waste and recycling industry as a whole had a steady rate of 5.0, while solid waste collections dropped 0.1, similar to the national data. The materials recovery facility (MRF) rate increased from 6.0 to 9.8.
“SWANA is concerned by the 60 percent increase in reported injuries and illnesses at MRFs during 2017, which was a year when recycling operations were buffeted by China’s waste import restrictions,” said Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Executive Director and CEO David Biderman. “We are also concerned that the incident rate increased at landfills to the highest level in four years. Combined with the very high level of worker fatalities that have occurred this year, it is clear that there is much more work to be done to improve the industry’s safety performance.”
BLS data for the waste and recycling sector show:
- NAICS code 562, Waste Collection, held steady at a rate of 5.0.
- NAICS code 562111, Solid Waste Collection, declined from 5.2 to 5.1, similar to the national rate.
- NAICS code 56292, MRFs, rose from 6.0 to 9.8.
“BLS’ release of industry injury and illness data illuminates the progress being made to improve safety performance nationwide, but shows we still have work to do,” said National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) President and CEO Darrell Smith. “Since our Board of Trustees designated safety as a strategic initiative, NWRA has worked to provide its members with tools and outreach efforts as well as collecting our own data from members to monitor trends in safety.”
NWRA is committed to working with its members to make sure every one of its workers comes home safely each day. At the urging of NWRA Chapters, 22 states have passed Slow Down to Get Around laws that help to protect drivers and helpers when collecting refuse. NWRA urges the other 28 states and the District of Columbia to pass similar Slow Down to Get Around laws to protect not only waste collection workers but also tow truck drivers and other workers who work under amber lights. Additionally, NWRA is beginning to work with truck and MRF technology partners to understand opportunities to further safeguard employees. One such example of this is the transition to automated side-load trucks to serve communities. This not only keeps the employees in the cab and saves lives (rather than being exposed to traffic), but it also reduces injuries and improves recruiting and retention.
The NWRA Safety Committee will hold a meeting in Knoxville, Tenn., on November 13 to discuss mitigating the effects of distracted driving.