WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) is troubled by statistics released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in a report earlier today. In the report (Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2011), BLS states that 34 waste and recycling collectors died on the job in 2011, a 31 percent increase from the number of fatalities reported by BLS in 2010. The BLS report states that refuse and recyclable material collectors had a fatal injury rate of 41.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2011, compared to a rate of 29.8 per 100,000 in 2010. The BLS now ranks solid waste and recycling collection as the 4th most dangerous profession in the United States, up from 2010's No. 7 ranking.

NSWMA Safety Director David Biderman stated, “We are concerned that the new federal data shows a reversal of the great progress we made as an industry during the past decade. Safety has been and continues to be an important focus for NSWMA and its members. We are working to better understand the root causes of these accidents so we can provide better safety-related information to the industry.”

Biderman continued, “It is our initial understanding that many of last year's collection worker fatalities occurred at small haulers that do not participate in NSWMA's safety programs. We intend to redouble our efforts to reach these small haulers and provide them with safety tools to prevent these tragic accidents. We cannot allow this troubling trend to continue.”

Biderman urges all haulers and governments to participate in NSWMA safety programs, including Safety Monday, regional training events, the Be Safe Be Proud video series and the Slow Down to Get Around (SDTGA) program, and communicate the importance of working safely to their employees. To learn more about how you can help protect yourself and keep waste and recycling workers safe, visit here.

Read about how, in April, this statistic hit close to home for PUBLIC WORKS staff.