- One person was killed and six others were transported to a hospital after an Amtrak train carrying Republican Congress members struck a garbage truck belonging to Time Disposal, as reported by The Washington Post. The fatality has been identified as Christopher Foley, 28, who was a passenger in the truck with two other men. The collision happened around 11:20 a.m. in Crozet, VA.
- "Because this incident involved a train carrying members of Congress, it is a national and international story. The identity of the train’s passengers must not overshadow that incidents where solid waste workers are killed on the job occur far too frequently," Solid Waste Association of North America CEO David Biderman said in a statement. He added that the organization is committed to improving safety; "Nothing we do is more important," he said.
- The death from the train collision is the sixth U.S. fatality of a collections worker on the job in 2018, according to SWANA.
BREAKING: GOP train hit a truck on way to retreat. Sources say driver getting medical attention; members okay. Pic-> pic.twitter.com/99xmsGFEEs— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) January 31, 2018
This high-profile accident will, as Biderman said, likely garner an exceptional amount of attention because of the Amtrak passengers involved. Some headlines focused solely on the legislators and omitted the worker fatality entirely. The crucial detail remains, however, that the fatality was a sanitation worker or driver for a small hauler. As the sixth fatality of a collections worker in just the first month of 2018, this incident is a grave reminder of the safety risks in the waste industry.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident, so it is likely more details will be available in the future, though there is no timeline for the investigation. Federal Railroad Administration officials were also sent, according to the Post.
While there are some incidents that appear unavoidable or seemingly random — a train collision, for example — proper training, vehicle maintenance, public awareness and constant vigilance can mitigate the safety risk of operating heavy machinery for hours each day on the road.
While big, multi-state companies have large operating budgets with capital dedicated for training, smaller companies often do not have the same capacity to spend time and resources on robust training programs. To help alleviate those pressures, SWANA announced in mid-January it was starting a small hauler outreach program, designed to share best practices and safety tips in each of SWANA's chapters. The National Waste & Recycling Association also has safety material, including a manual of recommended practices, on its website.