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SWANA records significant increase in collection fatalities

Industry association reminding solid waste employees to be diligent in complying with safety rules

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Over the past month, there has been a significant increase in the number of fatal incidents involving solid waste collection vehicles and employees. Since March 14, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is aware of at least sixteen fatal incidents in the United States resulting in eighteen fatalities, including eight in which a solid waste employee has been killed.

SWANA recognizes that many workers may be concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, and that increased residential volume and operational changes may be disrupting routines and impacting productivity. However, even during this challenging period, it is essential for solid waste collection workers to comply with applicable safety rules, including:

  • Wearing a safety belt
  • Never be on the riding step when truck is backing
  • Don't use a cell phone when truck is moving
  • Always wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Comply with speed limit and other traffic laws

Some of the fatal incidents that have occurred over the past 3 weeks were due to not following these basic safety rules. These safety recommendations are part of SWANA's 5 to Stay Alive initiative, which provides guidance to solid waste and recycling employees who work in collection, transfer stations, MRFs, landfills, composting, and waste-to-energy facilities.

"SWANA had observed a notable decrease in fatal incidents in the first two months of 2020 compared to the past two years, but starting in mid-March, we have seen a rapid increase in the frequency of these tragic events. This coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although solid waste workers are legitimately concerned about their health and the health of their families, they need to be safety-focused on the route and in post-collection operations," stated David Biderman, SWANA Executive Director and CEO.

"We remain diligent with all safety aspects of the job now with the added safety features of latex gloves and masks," said Sal Mastriani, Director of Risk Management of Interstate Waste Services. "Our team have responded impressively. Although we are troubled about an increase in fatal incidents nationally, we are fortunate that our incidents have decreased. In addition, I would urge everyone to keep an eye out for emotional stress and elevated anxiety among front-line workers, which may have contributed to some of the recent collisions others have seen."

Since March 14, 2020, fatal incidents involving solid waste collection vehicles and personnel have occurred in Arizona, California, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas

Though recent events have shown there is a real need for better safety training and implementation, many organizations have excellent programs worth emulating. That is why SWANA is proud to recognize these industry leaders through its 2020 SWANA Safety Awards, now accepting submissions through June 26.

For more information on SWANA's safety program, visit swana.org/safety.

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