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Surge in Waste Worker Deaths: SWANA Pushing to Improve Safety

30 waste workers have died in 2019 and the sharp rise in fatalities in the US and Canada has raised alarms across the industry. To reduce fatality rates, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is urging waste service providers to renew their focus on safety. However, it remains to be seen whether these calls to action will create positive results. 

17 Deaths in 3 Weeks

17 waste workers died in the first 22 days of January. This was more than 1/2 the total number of industry-wide fatalities recorded by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017. This sharp spike in fatalities spurred alarm across the waste disposal industry.

However, the wide variety of causes of waste worker injuries and fatalities means that there are no quick and simple fixes to the problem. Waste workers operate in physically challenging environments where weather, traffic, and other factors cannot be controlled. While better training and the issuance of safety equipment could help reduce the fatality and injury rates, it’s unlikely the industry will ever be entirely safe. 

Causes of Waste Worker Fatalities

Crushing injuries caused by vehicles and trash compactors are leading causes of fatalities in the waste disposal industry. Other causes include motor vehicle collisions, entanglements in moving components, and crushing injuries caused by collapsing piles of waste.

SWANA Pushes Focus on Safety

Alarmed by the sharp rise in fatalities earlier this year, SWANA issued numerous press releases aimed at encouraging waste disposal services to enhance their focus on worker training and education programs. They are also recommending stronger oversight of operations, equipment inspections, and investment in safety technologies designed to prevent accidents and injuries. 

Key factors that could help reduce the rates of waste worker fatalities and injuries include:

  • Focus on Preventing Backovers and Distracted Driving
  • Enhanced Equipment Training
  • Prevention of Needlestick Injuries
  • Providing Workers with Safety Equipment to Prevent Musculoskeletal Injuries
  • Safety Improvements to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls 

Solid waste disposal is the fifth deadliest job in the nation. When a waste worker suffers an injury or fatality caused by the negligence of an employer, a job injury lawyer can help victims pursue workers’ compensation, personal injury, and wrongful death claims. In Nevada, workers and their families can pursue compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and punitive damages designed to deter future bad acts by the employer.  

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