Fewer Workplace Fatalities Last Year, Especially in Waste Industry

Date: August 19, 2010

Source: News Room

Refuse collection workers face a variety of occupational hazards. In fact, refuse collection was identified as one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States during the 1992-1997 period. Refuse collecting and recycling accounted for over 1% of all occupational fatalities nationally between 1992 and 1997. While occupational workers "struck by" vehicles account for a major portion of these fatalities, other workers are killed by contact with objects and equipment according to Bureau of Labor Statistics 2001 data. Between 1999 and 2003, OSHA investigated at least six fatalities involving workers who were crushed when the dumpster became dislodged. increasing percentage of collection-related fatalities appear to be caused by other motorists colliding with workers near trucks and cites the Ohio fatality in December 2004 that lead to development of the Slow Down to Get Around program. NSWMA has developed safety videos addressing both landfill and transfer station safety issues, which can be found at www.nswma.org. Program involves training workers about proper safety procedures, emphasize wearing protective gear, use backup alarms and view systems, avoidence of lifting and loading injury and strains, driver ergonomics and prohibited use of cell phones or at least hands free only devices. Technology is also helping the industry. For example, automated loading systems avoid having workers hanging off the truck and keep the driver safely inside the vehicle. BLS's 2008 report on workplace fatalities is available at www.bls.gov. ------------------- Workplace fatalities story in Friday's WSJ Workplace Fatalities Decline to Historic Low By JUSTIN LAHART Far fewer Americans died from on-the-job injuries last year, largely because fewer people were working—especially in hazardous fields like construction. Workplace fatalities due to injuries dropped to 4,340 in 2009, the Labor Department reported Thursday, down 17% from 5,214 deaths the year before. Last year's total was the lowest since tracking began 18 years ago. In general, U.S. workplaces have grown steadily safer over time, with fewer deaths, said Helen Levy, an economist at the University of Michigan who studies health issues. But the bulk of last year's drop in work-related fatalities likely came because the U.S. lost 4.7 million jobs last year. Ms. Levy said it is difficult to gauge how much of the improvement is the result of jobs lost to the recession, versus genuine improvements in workplace safety or other measures that protect workers. "If people were all home watching TV, that's not a great story," she said. There were 3.3 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers last year, down from 3.7 in 2008. One reason for that is that the brunt of job losses last year occurred in some of the most dangerous industries. The construction sector, for instance, registered 816 deaths last year, more than any other industry. That was down from 975 in 2008, but the fatality rate of 9.7 deaths per 100,000 workers was unchanged. On the other hand, the fatality rate in the mining sector, even more dangerous than construction, fell to 12.7 deaths per 100,000 workers last year from 18.1 in 2008. Highway accidents were the top cause of worker fatalities last year, leading to 882 deaths. That was sharply lower than the 1,215 highway deaths registered in 2008. That is largely because workers spent far less time on the road, with truckers hauling less freight, cabbies getting fewer fares and delivery trucks dropping off fewer packages. With workers lately logging more hours on the road, some of the 2009 decline might be reversed. Jim Johnson, who directs workplace safety advocacy efforts at the nonprofit National Safety Council, said companies should put more effort into reducing highway accidents. "Restricting the use of cellphones while driving—that's an easy one for companies to tackle," he said. The number of murders, another leading cause of workplace fatalities, dropped only slightly, falling to 521 from 526 in 2008. Among those killed were the 13 shot dead last November at Ford Hood in Texas. The number of workplace suicides, which hit an all-time high of 263 in 2008, dropped to 237 last year. Commercial fishing, a job that employed only 31,000 people last year, remained the most dangerous line of work, with a fatality rate of 200 deaths per 100,000 workers. Among the dead were six scallop fishermen who drowned after their boat sank off the coast of New Jersey in March last year. But even this most dangerous of jobs has been getting safer, noted Jennifer Lincoln, an Alaska-based injury epidemiologist with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health who studies fishing safety issues. She has worked closely with Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries, where the fatality rate has dropped to 260 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers in the past decade from 770 in the 1990s. Efforts by the Coast Guard to ensure that crab pots, which weigh some 700 to 800 pounds, aren't overloaded or improperly loaded before boats go to sea has helped lower the rate, Ms. Lincoln said. Equipment improvements, like personal flotation devices that are more comfortable to wear while working, also have helped reduce fishing fatalities, as has greater awareness of safety issues. "Commercial fishing has got a lot more safety-conscious," said Page Read, the owner of Emerald Marine Products in Lopez Island, Wash. He said he has been selling more of a man-overboard alarm he developed to fishing boats in recent years than in the past. Logging was the second-riskiest occupation last year, with a rate of 61.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. But it too has become much safer in recent years, noted Steve Mitzner, who runs Mitzner Logging, a small contract-logging operation in Okanogan, Wash. "It used to be more harum-scarum, but now people are a lot safer," he said. "Everybody has safety chaps, everybody has ear protection, everybody has eye protection, everybody has hard hats." Also, logging operations have become more automated—protecting workers somewhat from dangerous machinery. --------------------- PRESS RELEASE Department of Labor Reports Fewer Worker Deaths in Solid Waste Industry WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of fatalities by solid waste collection workers declined substantially in 2009 compared to 2008. In its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the fatality rate during 2009 for both solid waste collection and landfill employees continued to decline, as it has in recent years. The BLS report indicates that the fatality rate for solid waste collection workers (both refuse and recyclable material collectors) decreased from 31 fatalities in 2008 to 19 fatalities in 2009, a 39 percent drop. The report indicated that the number of fatalities for all waste management and remediation service employees (including collection, landfill workers, etc.) fell from 74 to 43 during the same period, a 42 percent drop. NSWMA Safety Director David Biderman stated, “We are very pleased that the solid waste industry reduced the number of workplace fatalities in 2009. According to NSWMA data, the leading cause of waste collection worker fatality is being struck by another vehicle, and we will continue to work with members, regulators and others to educate the public about this hazard. Seven collection workers were killed in struck bys in 2009, and there have been at least 4 fatal struck bys so far in 2010.” Biderman continued, “A substantial and disproportionate number of the fatalities in 2009 occurred at small haulers who are not NSWMA members, and this trend has accelerated in 2010.” Biderman urges all haulers and local governments to participate in NSWMA’s safety programs, including the Be Safe Be Proud and Slow Down to Get Around (SDTGA) programs, and communicate the importance of working safely to their employees. Be Safe Be Proud is a series of industry safety videos developed by NSWMA (under a grant awarded by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) with the solid waste worker in mind. These videos are available in VHS or DVD formats. The 18-20 minute videos (available in English and Spanish) feature actual solid waste employees in real workplace hazard situations faced by drivers and helpers on collection routes or by workers at landfills and transfer stations. They help companies and governments reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities. SDTGA is a public awareness program including 60-second and 30-second television and radio public service announcements (PSA) that NSWMA also developed with support from the OSHA. To request a broadcast-quality copy of the television or radio ads, contact Biderman (davidb@envasns.org or 202.364.3743). In addition to this television PSAs, NSWMA is making SDTGA decals available that haulers may put on their trucks to remind motorists to drive carefully. NSWMA makes the decals available to interested parties at no charge. Haulers can obtain SDTGA truck decals by contacting sales@neihauscorp.com or 859.331.3733). To learn more about how you can help protect yourself and keep garbage men safe on our roads, visit http://www.environmentalistseveryday.org/safety. NSWMA – a sub-association of the Environmental Industry Associations – represents for-profit companies in North America that provide solid, hazardous and medical waste collection, recycling and disposal services, and companies that provide professional and consulting services to the waste services industry. NSWMA members conduct business in all 50 states. To learn more, contact: David Biderman, NSWMA, 202-364-3743.

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