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May 1, 1999
Police officers and fire fighters face job-related dangers every day, but it's not as widely known that garbage collectors do, too.
In fact, solid waste haulers rank third on the list of the riskiest jobs in the United States, according to a study by the Florida Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, Miami, and the University of Miami,.
Averaging 90 deaths annually per 100,000 workers, collection falls behind fishing, with 178 deaths, and timber cutting, with 156. The high number of deaths can be attributed partly to impatient drivers, who try to pass stopped garbage collection vehicles and end up hitting collectors. This makes waste handling a riskier occupation than airplane pilot, which averages 88 per 100,000 workers, and taxicab driver, which averages 32 deaths.
The mortality rate is 100 times higher than what is considered acceptable risk by any standard, says James Englehardt, University of Miami professor of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering, and a lead researcher for the study.
The injury rate also is staggering, according to the study. Collectors, on average, are injured five to seven times more than the average worker, with 52.7 injuries per 100 workers. Most of those are back injuries and lacerations.
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