Though the likelihood has dropped over the last several years, your refuse collectors are twice as likely as their private-sector counterparts to be killed on the job.
In 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, there were 12 fatalities among public-sector collection employees, representing 2.3% of all collection-related fatalities, compared to 0.9% in the private sector. The number of fatalities in the public sector is down from 15 in 2003.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the injury rate for all refuse workers, both public and private, fell marginally, from 7.5 to 7.4 per 100 full-time employees. The rate for landfill employees fell dramatically — 24% — from 7.1 to 5.4 per 100 full-time employees.
Replacing manual rear-load vehicles with semi- and fully automated refuse trucks reduces the physical demands of lifting heavy containers and stepping on and off the trucks. Tight budgets, however, have made it difficult for cities and counties to upgrade to newer, more expensive equipment.
Meanwhile, the number of workplace citations is down.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 37% fewer citations to solid waste operations, public and private, last year than in 2008.
Last year the agency assessed $250,000 in fines compared to $333,000 in 2008. As in previous years, violations of the Hazard Communication, Lockout-Tagout and Respiratory Protection standards were the most common violations.