Hauler at work loading materials into truck

Deaths related to mechanical incidents topped the list of causes for the first time since SWANA began collecting fatality data. | YES Market Media/Shutterstock

Waste industry worker fatalities rose to 46 in 2022, a nearly 65% increase over the prior year. 

The Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) annual report found that the majority of deaths took place during collection, with 25 reported. Eight landfill workers died in 2022, along with seven MRF employees and four maintenance workers.

One death took place in a transfer facility, and one was classified in the “other” category.

The uptick in 2022 deaths comes after federal data showed the injury rate for the waste and recycling industry fell in 2021, reaching its lowest point since 2006. 

SWANA found that the most common cause of death for collection workers was truck-related incidents such as falling off or the vehicle rolling over, the report noted. Being struck by a third-party vehicle was the second most common cause, followed by crashing with other vehicles.

Fatal incidents at MRFs increased from one in 2021 to seven in 2022, and fatalities at landfills similarly rose from five to eight. 

In the maintenance category, of the four people killed while working on trucks, three of the incidents involved hydraulics.

For the first time since SWANA started tracking fatalities, mechanical-related fatalities were the most common, with 11 people killed during truck maintenance or working on and around shredders, balers, compactors and other equipment. 

Texas, California and New York stayed on the list of top 5 states with the most fatalities in 2022, joined by Florida and Pennsylvania. Ohio and Georgia fell off the list. 

The report found that those top five states represented over 40% of all 2022 fatalities, with 14 in Florida, 12 in California, 10 in Pennsylvania, nine in Texas and eight in New York. The U.S. overall led Canada in fatalities, with only three total fatalities occurring in Canada in 2022 – one in Ontario and two in British Columbia.

SWANA also tracks when members of the public are killed in a solid waste related incident. In 2022, that number of events decreased to 83, from 90 in 2021. 

The majority of those fatalities were of drivers or passengers in cars, with 47 recorded. The second-highest category was pedestrians with 14, followed by motorcyclists with nine deaths and bicyclists with seven deaths. The remaining deaths were among the unhoused, other vehicles and transfer station customers. 

David Biderman, SWANA CEO and executive director, said in the press release he was disappointed in the increase. 

“The 2022 data is a reminder that we need to make sure that safety is a core value across all lines of business, in collection, post-collection and maintenance, and at small and large companies and agencies in both the public and private sectors,” he added.


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