Date: March 2, 2021
The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has reported that 52 municipal solid waste industry workers were killed in 2020. Nearly 70 percent of these fatalities happened during waste collection. The most common cause of death was related to single vehicle accidents. In comparison to 2018 and 2019, fatalities at landfills and material recovery facilities (MRFs) both decreased, however, transfer station deaths increased.
Of the incidents related to single vehicle accidents, many occurred while the driver was out of the cab, which suggests that worker rush may have been a factor at play. Also, very disturbing is that 76 members of the public were killed in accidents with collection vehicles.
SWANA maintains that many of these deaths were preventable, and that safety practices need to improve to further reduce annual fatalities. SWANA releases a weekly newsletter, Safety Matters, and urges all waste management personnel to review it regularly in meetings. Additionally, in-cab cameras and artificial intelligence were discussed as possible tools to help drive down incidents.
Silver Spring, MD The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) reported 52 municipal solid waste industry workers were killed in 2020 in the United States and Canada, with nearly 70 percent occurring during collection. This data was shared by Jesse Maxwell, SWANA Advocacy & Safety Senior Manager, at SWANAs virtual Safety Summit on February 25.
The most common type of fatal event was a single vehicle accident in which only a waste collection vehicle was involved. The second most common fatality was being struck by a waste collection vehicle, either as a helper or when a driver was out of the cab. This suggests that rushing may be contributing to these tragic incidents, and that reminding collection crews of best practices for safety is needed.
There continues to be too many avoidable fatal incidents in and involving the solid waste industry, stated David Biderman, SWANA Executive Director & CEO. This trend has continued into 2021, with 17 fatal incidents recorded in the first two months of the year. We can and must do better.
Collection fatalities remained steady in 2020 compared to 2019 and were down from 2018 when 42 occurred. Fatal incidents at landfills fell from 11 in 2019 to 4 in 2020, and material recovery facilities (MRFs) similarly saw a drop in worker deaths from 4 in 2019 to 1 last year. Fatalities at transfer stations increased from 1 in 2019 to 3 in 2020.
In addition to worker fatalities, SWANA also tracks events in which a member of the public is killed in a solid waste related incident. In 2020, 76 members of the public in the United States and Canada were killed in collisions with a solid waste collection vehicle, with about 62 percent being vehicle collisions. The past year saw slightly fewer fatalities than 2019 when there were 80 and continues the decline from 2018 when 101 members of the public died.
At the state level, New York had the most fatal incidents with 15, followed by California with 12, Texas with 11, Pennsylvania with 9, and Florida with 8. New York and California have both been in the top five states in number of fatalities for the past three years.
In addition to presenting the 2020 fatality data, SWANAs virtual Safety Summit brought together safety leaders from Waste Management, Republic, Waste Connections, Rumpke, Caterpillar, and other employers who provided attendees with useful information on how to reduce collisions, injuries, and accidents. Recordings of the Safety Summit are available for sale at https://swana.org/safety-summit/.
To reduce fatal and non-fatal incidents across the solid waste industry, SWANA has developed a growing variety of safety resources. SWANAs latest addition is a new, weekly newsletter, Safety Matters, which makes relevant safety guidance easily accessible to front-line employees and workers at all levels. SWANA encourages members to use it at safety meetings and toolbox talks to remind workers of safety hazards associated with solid waste management and how to avoid them.
To learn more about SWANAs Safety Initiatives, visit https://swana.org/initiatives/safety.
The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is an organization of more than 10,000 public and private sector professionals committed to advancing from solid waste management to resource management through their shared emphasis on education, advocacy and research. For close to 60 years, SWANA has been the leading association in the solid waste management field. SWANA serves industry professionals through technical conferences, certifications, publications and a large offering of technical training courses.
Sarah Beidleman, Marketing Coordinator