Resource Recycling News

Industry illness and injury rates hit record low in 2021

data analysis

The second year in which COVID-19 cases in the workplace were reported, 2021 saw a steep decline in the illness rate for solid waste collection workers. | Joyseulay/Shutterstock

According to federal data, the waste and recycling industry injury rate fell in 2021, bringing it to the lowest point since 2006. 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illness report, the injury and illness rate for solid waste landfill workers fell from 3.4 incidents per 100 full-time employees to 2.2 incidents per 100 in 2021. Meanwhile, the rate for solid waste collection dropped from 5.2 to 4, and the rate for MRF workers fell from 5.2 to 3.2. 

David Biderman, Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) executive director and CEO, said in a statement that the data “reflects a historic improvement in worker safety in the solid waste industry.” 

“Injury and illness rates last year were less than half of what they were in 2017,” he added. “SWANA will continue leading industry efforts to reduce them even further and fulfill our Strategic Plan goal of getting solid waste collection workers off the list of the ten most dangerous jobs.” 

Darrell Smith, National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) president and CEO, said in a statement that the data is trending in the right direction, but “we have more work to do to reduce injuries and illness in the waste and recycling industry.” 

“Though we are pleased with the significant drop at landfills and among waste hauling, we cannot be satisfied with this report, and we have a long way to go to get off of the top ten deadliest industry list,” he added. 

This year’s injury and illness survey is the second year in which COVID-19 cases in the workplace were reported, and the illness rate for solid waste collection fell from 22.4 per 100 full time workers in 2020 down to 8.4 in 2021, according to SWANA’s statement. However, illness rate data was not made available for solid waste landfill or MRF employees.

Overall, private industry employers saw a 1.8% decrease in workplace nonfatal injuries and illness in 2021, with 2.6 million reported. This decline was due to the drop in illness cases, which fell 32.9% overall, while the injury rate increased slightly in 2021 to 2.3 cases per 100 workers, compared to 2.2 cases in 2020.

Data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries will be made public on Dec. 16.

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