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Waste & Recycling December 30, 2016 11:00:31 AM

Recycling & refuse collection is the fifth most dangerous job in the US

Carolina Curiel
ScrapMonster Author
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released final figures of industry and occupational fatality data for 2015.
Recycling & refuse collection is the fifth most dangerous job in the US

SPOKANE (Scrap Monster): The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released final figures of industry and occupational fatality data for 2015.

The 2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary states that the number of fatalities among recyclable materials collectors in the USA increased sharply from 27 in 2014 to 33 in 2015. The number of fatalities had totaled 33 in 2013 also. Consequently, refuse and recyclable material collection, as an occupation, ranked fifth in the list of most dangerous jobs in the country. Out of 33 employee deaths, 24 occurred in the private sector, whereas the remaining 9 occurred in the public sector.

An analysis of the BLS data by the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) states that the majority of the increase in fatalities was attributed to the rise in fatalities in the private sector. The number of fatalities in the private sector increased significantly from 18 during 2014 to 24 in 2015. The fatalities in the public sector remained unchanged at 9, it noted.

Industry wise, Solid Waste Collection fatalities recorded 10% decline to 36, out of which 27 were in private sector and 9 in public sector. Also, refuse and recyclable material collectors accounted for nearly 75% of the fatalities in the Solid Waste Collection industry. The private landfill industry reported 9 fatalities in 2015, as compared with zero fatality in 2014. The number of fatalities in private material recovery facilities increased from zero during prior year to 3 in 2015. Both private and public sector waste and recycling operations reported 50 fatalities in 2015, significantly higher by 10% from 40 in 2014. The jump in fatalities was mainly due to increased number of fatalities at landfill operations. 

According to BLS report, private industry employers reported approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illness in 2015. The total recordable cases for private industry declined to 3 per 100 full-time workers in 2015, as compared with 3.2 during the year prior to that. The private industry employers reported nearly 48,000 fewer nonfatal injury and illness cases in 2015.

The rate of injuries and illness remained highest among mid-size private industry establishments that employ anywhere between 50 to 249 workers. Small establishments employing fewer than 11 workers reported the lowest rate.

The total recordable cases of workplace injury and illness in the waste management and remedial services category decreased from 5.1 per 100 in 2014 to 4.5 per 100 in 2015. The total rate of recordable cases for solid waste collection employees was 6.6 per 100, down significantly when compared with the rate of 7.1 per 100 during the prior year. The BLS data indicates that solid waste collection segment under the waste and remediation sector recorded the highest rate of incidences in 2015.

NWRA National Safety Director Anthony Hargis stated that the association is committed to achieve robust safety culture industry-wide. NWRA and its members have initiated various steps aimed at improving safety for workers in the waste and recycling industry. These include hosting of safety seminars and webinars, safety inspections, development of safety manuals and safety training to workers. Hargis urged companies to make safety a top priority in order to save precious human lives and reduce the injuries and incidence rates.

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