Sometimes the best way to break bad news is to just come right out and say it. I look at having to bring up an unpopular fact in much the same way.
Solid waste industry fatalities in 2017 were 18% higher compared to 2016.
The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) released its 2017 fatality data to show there were 132 recorded deaths. As part of its mission, SWANA records and investigates fatal accidents that involve the solid waste industry. Breaking the numbers down, there were 94 members of the public who were killed and 38 workers on the job. More than 75% of the incidents involved a private sector solid waste company.
In the press release announcing the data, David Biderman, SWANA’s Executive Director and CEO, said, “I am disappointed in the waste industry’s safety performance in 2017 based on the fatality-related data that SWANA maintains. There were an unacceptable number of preventable fatal incidents involving our trucks and equipment.”
If you’re wondering about the 94 members of the public who were killed, 57 were in other vehicles, 23 were pedestrians, eight were riding bicycles, four were on motorcycles, and two happened at disposal facilities.
Having just come from Waste Expo 2018 in Las Vegas, NV, and having just seen all the new gadgets and equipment that improve safety for collection truck operators and the public at large, I’m talking more video cameras, bigger windows, more accurate sensors, better warning lights, real-time monitoring of drivers…you would think that fatality rates would be falling. They shouldn’t be going up. We’re all preaching about safety and how we want everyone to get home to their families in one piece. We consistently have a safety column in MSW Management magazine, SWANA leads the way in numerous safety efforts including showing support to pass Slow Down to Get Around legislation in several states, it has Safety Mondays, and the Five to Stay Alive safety series.
Was 2017 simply an off year? A fluke? An aberration?
We have 132 more reasons to try to make sure that it was. There are 132 more reasons to double down on our commitment to safety.