Refuse and recyclable material collectors work in the fifth most dangerous job in the United States. According to USA Today, there is an average of 30 fatal injuries and more than 1,000 nonfatal injuries each year in the waste industry.
Waste collectors may understand the risks they could face, but three workplace industrial accidents in June only called more attention to just how dangerous this industry can be.
Three deaths in one day raise concern throughout the country
The three accidents in Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee were unrelated. It was pure coincidence that all three happened on June 13. However, all three of them highlight the risks waste industry workers face daily, and the many forms these risks can take.
These catastrophic accidents involved:
- A Maryland worker crushed under waste at a transfer station
- A collection truck running over a South Carolina worker
- A Tennessee collection driver colliding with a train
The Waste Dive article reporting on the three accidents states that workplace safety is an "ongoing struggle" for this industry.
Increasing safety is a primary concern in this field
One of the reasons this ongoing struggle continues is because the waste industry involves such unique and various hazards, including:
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals
- Other reckless drivers on the roads
- Heavy equipment malfunctioning
- Negligent operation of heavy equipment
- An ever-changing work environment
It is difficult to improve worker safety with these variables, so workplace safety remains a large obstacle for workers in this industry.
Remember: Workers' compensation is an option
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides some helpful tips to prevent injuries in the waste industry, from improving training practices to using automated collection trucks. There are also widespread industry efforts to increase safety and protect workers from injuries.
Those efforts are necessary. Hopefully, they will help keep workers safe in the future. However, waste workers now still face a high risk of serious injury or even death. An injury can be overwhelming, but it is critical that employees remember the benefits they could recover through workers' compensation to ease the stress an injury places on them and their family.