Waste and Recycling Industry Sees Uptick in Fatalities

Waste and Recycling Industry Sees Uptick in Fatalities

Arlington, VA – Today, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released 2018 figures for industry and occupational fatality data. In its 2018 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, the BLS reported that fatalities of all U.S. workers remained flat. Refuse and recyclable material collectors remained the fifth deadliest occupation with 37 fatalities, up from 31 in 2017, resulting in a rate change from 34 per 100,000 to 44 per 100,000. As a private industry, we saw the total number of fatalities rise from 27 in 2017 to 49 in 2018; 75 percent of these fatalities were a result of transportation incidents.

“The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) is saddened by the increase in fatalities in the industry. NWRA and our members are committed to improving safety in our industry and we will never accept any loss of life,” said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith.

Over the past four years, NWRA and its chapters nationwide have successfully lobbied for “Slow Down to Get Around” legislation, which is now the law in more than 30 states. These laws require that motorists slow down when waste and recycling collection vehicles are stopped and workers are getting on and off, just as motorists are required to slow down in construction work zones, stop for school buses or pull over for emergency vehicles.

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Protect First Responders Act earlier this year, legislation aimed at reducing roadside deaths and establishing a public safety program to raise awareness of “Move Over” laws.

“Unfortunately NWRA was anticipating a rise in the fatality number, which is why we released a request for proposals in November to establish a baseline understanding of fatalities and injuries,” said NWRA’s Chief of Staff and Vice President of Safety and Standards Kirk Sander. “NWRA realizes that concrete steps are needed to understand this crisis for all of our workers to come home safely.”

NWRA and its members have undertaken numerous initiatives that represent a comprehensive approach to improving safety for workers in the waste and recycling industry, including:

  • Temporary worker safety training.
  • Safety Monday — A bilingual poster sent each week to member companies with important practical tips to prevent accident and injury.

The BLS data on workplace injury and illness is published annually, and information on the waste and recycling industry is based on the U.S. Census Bureau definition of the waste and remediation services industry (NAICS Code 562111) as “solid waste collection, hazardous waste collection, other waste collection, hazardous waste treatment and disposal, solid waste landfill, solid waste combustors and incinerators.” A copy of the BLS announcement can be found at www.bls.gov.


The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) represents the private sector waste and recycling services industry. Association members conduct business in all 50 states and include companies that manage waste, recycling and medical waste, equipment manufacturers and distributors, and a variety of other service providers. For more information about NWRA, please visit www.wasterecycling.org.

Brandon Wright
National Waste and Recycling Association