- The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) said Thursday morning it was aware of seven U.S. solid waste-related fatalities in the first 10 days of 2018.
- The fatalities occurred in Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Virginia, Massachusetts and North Carolina and, according to SWANA, involved large companies, regional haulers and municipal departments. "This year is off to an extraordinarily bad start," SWANA CEO David Biderman said in an interview with Waste Dive. "Hopefully the second half of January will be fatality-free."
- To try and "move the needle," Biderman said, SWANA is introducing a small hauler outreach program through its chapter-based Safety Ambassadors. The initiative will provide resources and spread best practices and compliance tips, in multiple languages, to drivers and helpers in every SWANA chapter.
Refuse collection remains the fifth most dangerous job in the United States, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This string of fatal incidents, so early in the new year, illustrates that the job brings risks for those not in the industry, too.
Biderman said the rough start to 2018 showed it was "all the more important to roll out the program quickly." SWANA said the small hauler outreach would start "in the coming months." This focus on smaller companies that may not have access to the resources of those with larger corporate safety cultures has become a growing priority in recent years.
The program, "doesn't mean we're magically going to see a significant reduction in incidents," Biderman said. "But by changing behaviors and strengthening connections between chapters and haulers, we would expect to see a decrease in incidents."
In addition to its new small hauler outreach initiative, SWANA plans to incorporate safety training and discussions at its upcoming events this year, including SWANAPalooza and WASTECON. While those events are national, SWANA is leaving it to each individual chapter to determine how to best share the safety information and resources with small haulers in its outreach program.
Biderman indicated that Slow Down to Get Around could see some action this year, too. As state legislative sessions begin around the country, Biderman said Slow Down to Get Around activity would be part of SWANA's 2018 safety effort in partnership with the National Waste & Recycling Association.