On November 4, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the 2019 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII). The SOII estimates the counts and incidence rates of employer-reported nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. In 2019, there was an increase in injuries and illnesses at solid waste landfills, from 3.9 incidents per 100 full time employees in 2018 to 4.9 in 2019. MRF incidence rates continued to decrease from 4.9 to 3.6. Solid waste collection declined, but only slightly, going from 5.9 to 5.8.

Causes of Injury

The most common cause of injury for collection workers was being struck by or against an object or equipment. That was followed by slips, trips, and falls. The most common injuries were sprains, strains, and tears followed by soreness and pain. Likewise for landfill workers.  They were also most likely to be injured due to being struck by or against an object or equipment, followed by slips, trips, and falls. Sprains strains and tears were by far the most common type of injury for this group. At MRFs, slips and trips without falls were the event that led to the most injuries.

As a group, collection workers missed more work after an injury than either landfill or MRF employees.  For collection workers, the median days away from work after injury was 15 days, up from 13 in 2018. In contrast, the median days away from work for landfill workers was 10, while at MRFs the median was 8.

Totals for 2019

Private industry employees experienced 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019, unchanged from 2018. There were 888,220 injuries or illnesses that caused a worker to miss at least one day of work in 2019, representing a slight decrease from 2018.

SWANA found the BLS data to be consistent with anecdotal information received from a range of solid waste employers for 2019. So far in 2020, most employers in the sector have reported a decline in recorded injuries and illnesses compared to 2019.

Remember, safety is a team effort.  Be deliberate and encourage the members of your team to take the SWANA Safety Pledge today.

On December 16, BLS will publish the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) for 2019.