Seven solid waste-related fatalities in the United States occurred in the first 10 days of 2018, according to a news release from the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland. These deaths come just weeks after the Bureau of Labor Statistics again identified solid waste collection as the fifth deadliest job in the U.S. in 2016.
The seven fatalities occurred in Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Virginia, Massachusetts and North Carolina and involved large solid waste companies, regional haulers and municipal sanitation departments. SWANA reports that 6 of the 7 incidents involved solid waste collection, adding “this disturbing start to 2018 reinforces the urgent need to create a safer environment for industry employees and the public.”
“I am very disappointed by the number of fatal incidents in the first 10 days of 2018; each of them is a tragedy and serves as a reminder that the entire industry needs to improve its safety culture,” says David Biderman, SWANA executive director and CEO. “We urge companies and local governments to not only take the time to educate supervisors and employees but also commit to making safety a workplace priority. Nothing we do at SWANA is more important.”
While the uptick in fatalities to start the New Year is alarming, 2017 saw high numbers as well, according to the association, which says it is aware of more than 100 fatal incidents involving the solid waste sector in the U.S. Several more incidents occurred in Canada.
“With the frequency increasing in the first few days of 2018, SWANA is committed to increasing its safety resources even further to jumpstart efforts throughout North America,” SWANA states.
Through multiple 2018 events and programs, SWANA says it will bring together solid waste professionals from across North America to share safety best practices and plan future industry initiatives. Safety will be a major topic at SWANApalooza in Denver this March and at WASTECON in August in Nashville, Tennessee, where SWANA’s Sixth Annual Safety Summit will take place. In the coming months, SWANA and its Chapter-based safety ambassadors will launch an initiative to provide resources, in multiple languages, to small haulers for their drivers and helpers.
“We need to be more creative in our safety efforts and target smaller companies and local governments who may lack the resources and expertise to provide safety training and information to their frontline workers,” says Tom Parker, an associate at CH2M and SWANA Safety Committee chair.
“Keeping the seven deaths that have already occurred in 2018 front of mind, SWANA will continue to grow its safety program to reduce industry injuries and fatalities, with the goal of moving solid waste collection off the list of most dangerous jobs and getting employees home to their loved ones safely every day,” the association states in its news release.
More information on SWANA’s safety efforts is available at https://swana.org/safety.