Workplace Safety : SWANA highlights workplace dangers for solid waste collection workers

Garbage collecting truck is parked on city street. Driver prepares garbage container for loading into truck. Dark time of day.
© Perytskyy -

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) participated in a press conference on November 4 in New York City, reminding New Yorkers to keep cyclists, pedestrians, and solid waste collection workers safe at night, especially after clocks “fall back” on Sunday, marking the end of Daylight Savings Time. New York City’s Dusk and Darkness initiative has been expanded this year to encompass the Department of Sanitation and private sector solid waste collection employees. Waste collection is amongst the ten most dangerous jobs in North America. With initiatives like that, but also special safety trainings SWANA wants to get waste collection workers off the list.

SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman spoke at the press conference. Biderman stated: “The Sanitation and solid waste employees who collect these discarded materials face an increasing risk of being struck at night by another truck, a car, bicycle or other vehicles, and many solid waste collection workers report collisions or near-misses at night caused by speeding, inattentive, or perhaps drunk drivers throughout the five boroughs.” He noted SWANA’s Safety Ambassador in New York City, who is the Safety Director at Mr. T Carting, was struck and seriously injured by a car while working at night in Brooklyn in July 2022. He is still recovering from the broken ribs, bruises, and knee surgery resulting from this incident.

NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Y. Royster, Taxi & Limousine Commissioner David Do, Department of Citywide Administrative Services Deputy Commissioner Keith Kernan, and several elected officials also spoke at the press conference.

SWANA is committed to improving safety for the entire solid waste industry; especially for collection employees who suffer fatalities and collisions at a higher rate. SWANA’s Board of Directors recently approved a new Strategic Plan whose first goal is to get collection employees off the list of the ten most dangerous jobs in the United States. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, “refuse and recycling collection” workers have the sixth highest workplace fatality rate among all occupations.