BLS 2016 Industry Injury & Illness Data shows positives, but MRFs and landfills still need attention
U.S. collection worker injury rate declines, while landfill and MRF injuries increased
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2016 data was released November 9. The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) says while they are pleased by the decline in the frequency of injuries and illnesses involving waste collection employees, the association is concerned by the increase in injuries and illnesses for workers at landfills and material recovery facilities (MRFs).
The BLS data shows that private solid waste collection employees had a substantial decrease in their injury and illness rates, while both landfill and MRF employees experienced increases in 2016 (see charts). The solid waste collection employee injury and illness rate declined from 6.6 to 5.2 per 100 full time employees, the lowest level in more than a decade.
However, the 2016 injury and illness rate for employees at landfills increased to 4.9, where it was in 2014; this is an increase from the 2015 rate of 3.5, and is consistent with a spike in fatal incidents at landfills in the U.S. during 2016 as tracked by SWANA.
MRF workers had an increase in injuries and illnesses last year, going from 5.1 per 100 FTE in 2015 to 6.0 in 2016. MRFs also made the list of top 25 industries with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work, restricted work, or job transfer, with a rate of 4.6.
"We are pleased by the decline in injury and illness rates among collection employees, and intend to review the 2016 and 2015 data to better understand the reasons for the decrease," stated David Biderman, SWANA's Executive Director and CEO. "However, the increased injury/illness rates for landfill and recycling workers is troubling. Given the recent spike in fatal accidents this fall, SWANA will continue to be an industry leader in providing useful safety resources; nothing we do is more important."
While the decline in the collection injury rate is a move in the right direction, SWANA has identified at least 13 fatal collection incidents in the U.S. in October 2017 alone, showing there is still much work to be done in order to keep workers safe and get waste collection off the list of top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S.
"SWANA's Safety Ambassador Program is one of the ways that SWANA keeps safety a top priority for members at the chapter level, throughout the United States and Canada," said John Tilton, SWANA's South Carolina Safety Ambassador. "I am very pleased by SWANA's focus on reducing accidents and injuries. Today's data shows we have made some progress on the collection side of the industry."
SWANA will be rolling out new safety initiatives in 2018 to provide additional resources for public and private sector employers and employees throughout the U.S. and Canada and continues to support "Slow Down To Get Around" safety efforts.
For more information SWANA's Safety Program, visit swana.org/safety.