The following Safety Alert was released by SWANA on December 17, 2021. Safety is a top priority for SWANA in our industry. 


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released their 2020 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. This census shows refuse and recyclable materials collection remains the 6th deadliest occupation in the United States, though total collection worker fatalities continue to decline. The workplace fatality rate for this group fell to 33.1 in 2020 from 35.2 in 2019.

Solid waste collection (NAICS 562111) saw a reduction in workplace fatalities in 2020, with 38 collection employee deaths. This continues a downward trend from 57 in 2018 and 43 in 2019.

Fatalities at material recovery facilities (NAICS 562920) increased slightly from 3 in 2019 to 4 in 2020. Solid waste landfills (NAICS 562212) saw 6 fatalities in 2020, while BLS recorded none in the previous year. According to data collected by SWANA, however, at least 2 landfill workers were killed on the job in 2019. Regardless, this portion of the industry saw a steady decline over the previous 5 years.

Notably, the BLS fatality census does not report any illness-related information, including COVID-19. Fatal workplace illnesses not caused by an injury are not within the scope of this report.

Across all workplaces in the United States, there were 4,764 fatal work injuries recorded in 2020, a 10.7-percent decrease from 5,333 in 2019. This represents the lowest annual number since 2013. The fatal work injury rate also decreased to 3.4 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down from 3.5 per 100,000 FTE in 2019.

While many fatal event categories fell, exposure to harmful substances or environments was at its highest since the series began in 2011. Within this category, unintentional overdose from nonmedical use of drugs accounted for 57.7 percent of fatalities.

SWANA will release the results of its own 2021 fatality survey in early 2022 and expects to report further decreases in worker fatalities over the past year.

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