Solid waste collection is fifth deadliest job in U.S.

Silver Spring, MD – Refuse and recyclable material collection remains the 5th deadliest job in the United States, a position it has held since 2013, according to just-released statistics.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released 2017 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries showing 30 fatalities in this occupation compared to 31 in 2016. The fatal work injury rate increased in 2017, however, from 34.1 to 35.0 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers.

Number of fatal work injuries

By industry category, solid waste collection workers (NAICS 562111) suffered 32 on-the-job fatalities, compared to 31 the year before.

“We are not surprised by the disappointing 2017 results, as the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) tracks all worker and third-party fatal incidents in the United States and Canada involving the solid waste industry,” said David Biderman, SWANA executive director and CEO.

“Solid waste collection continues to be the 5th most dangerous job in America, with a higher workplace fatality rate than police officers or fire fighters.

“SWANA’s preliminary data also indicates an increase in the number of worker fatalities in 2018, with nearly 50 solid waste employee fatalities recorded through December 15, 2018,” Biderman said.

Deaths among landfill employees (NAICS 562212), which are part of the reported industry total, have decreased in recent years, from nine deaths in 2015 to six deaths in 2017. There were also four fatalities among material recovery facility (MRF) workers (NAICS 562920) in 2017. In 2016, MRF data didn’t meet BLS publication criteria.

“These latest results are disappointing and as an industry we need to do better to ensure the safety of our employees. Making sure they get home safe every day to their families has to be our number one priority,” said Chad Grecsek, director of recycling and solid waste management and SWANA South Florida safety ambassador.

U.S. Solid Waste Industry Fatalities 2011-2017

The release of the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries each year is a sobering reminder of the safety challenges that workers in the solid waste industry face every day. SWANA takes seriously its commitment to get waste and recycling collection out of the top 10 most dangerous jobs and wants to ensure all workers in the industry in the United States and Canada make it home safely each day.

A variety of resources will help the industry reach that goal, including SWANA’s new Hauler Safety Outreach program that puts safety resources directly into the hands of the haulers who dump loads at disposal facilities across North America. We ask those same haulers to take the SWANA Safety Pledge to commit themselves to consider worker, customer, and public safety in every decision that they make.

Grecsek said, addressing industry safety is the responsibility of everybody in the industry. “To that end, the Florida SWANA Sunshine Chapter will be hosting a three-day Safety Matters symposium this March. This conference is being held in coordination with the chapter’s annual Road-E-O event and will bring collection and facilities managers as well as public and private sector leaders together to tackle this very important issue.

Sessions will focus on the latest trends, lessons learned and disseminate proven safety best management practices. Our best drivers with impeccable safety records will share their daily approaches to safety. The latest safety equipment and technologies will be also be discussed. For more information on this upcoming event please visit”

Through ongoing and new efforts, SWANA urges the industry to improve its safety record. SWANA will release its own review and analysis of 2018 fatalities in the United States and Canada in early 2019.