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17 Deaths form ‘tragic reminder’ of the importance of safety

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has called for a renewed focus on safety  following the sudden rise in fatal incidents in the USA and Canada. During the first three weeks of January 2019 alone, at least 17 people were killed in accidents relating to scrap and waste collection.

‘The surge in fatal incidents involving solid waste personnel and vehicles in January is unprecedented in my 20+ years in the industry and is unacceptable, says SWANA’s director David Biderman. ‘Regardless of who was at fault, each incident is tragic, and we urge all solid waste employers and employees in the US and Canada to review their safety procedures.’

‘Stay focused’

According to Jeff Martin, vice president of Waste Management, the majority of industry employees are injured or killed outside of their trucks. ‘With the continued increase of distracted motorists, all employees must remain 100% focused, 100% of the time while serving our communities,’ he argues, adding that a longer-term solution is ‘moving to so called Automated-Side-Load trucks to ensure the securement and overall protection of drivers keeping them in the cabs’.

Fifth deadliest job   

Recently, the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the 2017 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, identifying 30 fatalities among refuse and recyclable material collectors, making it the job with the fifth highest fatality rate in the United States.

The 17 industry-related deaths within the first 22 days of 2019 is a tragic reminder that SWANA needs to keep pushing for a stronger commitment to safety from the industry, elected officials, and the general public, it is stressed. The industry body says it will continue to focus on expanding its safety programme, with the goal of raising awareness and removing solid waste collection off the BLS’s list of most dangerous jobs.

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