Waste and recycling collection workers in the public sector average about four times the number in the private sector of days off from work related to injuries, according to a speaker at Wastecon from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Workers in the public sector took a total of 4,017 days away from work from injury or illness in 2009, according to estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with 1,070 for the private sector that year, according to David Utterback, services sector coordinator with the Washington-based NIOSH. He spoke at a session on safety at Wastecon, the annual show of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Aug 13-16 in Washington, D.C.
Utterback says the type of events that most often cause these injuries are similar – overexertion and struck by object for both sectors. The other most common category for the public sector was transportation, while in the private sector it was falls.
The age of injured workers tended to be older for the public sector as well. The biggest age category for injuries in the public sector was 35-44, while in the private sector it was 25-34. More than half of the public sector workers injured had more than five years of experience, while the most common experience level for injured private sector workers was one to five years.
In the question-and-answer period, Utterback admitted that trying to determine reasons for the public-private disparity would only be speculation on his part.