Injury and illness rates among waste workers hit ‘historic’ low in 2021

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Work-related injuries and illnesses in the waste industry hit their lowest level in years in 2021, according to annual data released Wednesday by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

For solid waste collection workers, the rate was 4.0 total cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down from the The previous years 5.2. Injury rates among landfill workers also continued to decline this year. The rate was 2.2 cases per 100 FTEs, compared to 3.4 the previous year. Rates for MRF workers have been reduced from 5.1 to 3.2.

Injury and illness rates for the three sectors are at their lowest levels since at least 2006, according to an analysis by the Solid Waste Association of North America. Rates are also less than half of what they were in 2017, said David Biderman, executive director and CEO of SWANA.

The recordable total disease rate for solid waste collection workers was 8.4 per 100 FTEs, compared to 22.4 in 2020. BLS did not provide specific disease rates for solid waste landfills or LIM employees. COVID-19 was included as an occupational disease for the second time in 2021.

In 2021, private sector employers across all industries reported 2.6 million non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses, down 1.8% from 2020, BLS reported. The incidence rate for all private sector jobs reported was 2.7, the same as the previous year.

The BLS plans to release 2021 worker fatality statistics on December 16. In 2020, the collection of waste and recyclable materials was the sixth deadliest in the United States, although the death rate decreased from the previous year.

Waste industry groups have applauded the decline in injury, illness and death rates over the years, but they say more progress is needed. The industry says it’s been working for a long time to make lasting security gains to help prevent chains of fatal accidents at work and remove unnecessary jobs from the list of the nation’s deadliest occupations.

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