Refuse and recyclable materials collection has dropped to the 7th most deadliest job in the United States, according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The agency released its 2021 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries that showed a dropped in workplace fatalities for the industry with 27.9 per 100,000 full-time fatalities in 2021, down from 33.1 in 2020.
“Today is an indication that our safety message is working and we commend our members for making safety a priority," said National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) President & CEO Darrell Smith. "We know we still have a long way to go to bring home every worker every day. Progress like this couldn’t be made without our member companies working together for one goal."
David Biderman, SWANA CEO and executive director, stated: “Although we are pleased by the industry’s improvement last year, being the seventh deadliest occupation in the United States is nothing to brag about. The uptick in fatal incidents in 2022 suggests that SWANA’s focus on safety as part of its new Forward Together Strategic Plan is both timely and necessary. Nothing we do at SWANA is more important that making sure the hard-working men and women in this great industry go home to their loved ones at the end of the day.”
The BLS publishes data on workplace injuries and illnesses annually. The U.S. Census Bureau categorizes the waste and remediation services industry (NAICS Code 562111) as “solid waste collection, hazardous waste collection, other waste collection, hazardous waste treatment and disposal, solid waste landfill, solid waste combustors, and incinerators.”
This reduction in worker fatalities is consistent with SWANA’s 2021 report that showed a significant decline compared to 2020.
The BLS 2021 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) released in November also reported historically low injury and illness rates for collection, landfill, and MRF workers.
SWANA’s data for 2022 is indicating a return to higher levels of worker fatalities, suggesting that the drop in 2021 data is correlated with the pandemic.