SWANA Reports 52 Solid Waste Industry Worker Fatalities in 2020
SWANA encourages increase in safety training, with focus on collection hazards at Safety Summit
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 SWANA’s 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.
View interactive Google Map here.
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, SWANA’s 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. SWANA’s 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 SWANA’s Safety Initiatives, visit https://swana.org/initiatives/safety.