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Safety week for refuse and recycling workers

Refuse and recyclable material collectors in Pennsylvania perform one of the nation's most dangerous jobs. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, garbage collectors ranked fifth on the list of American civilian occupations with the highest rate of fatal injuries in 2014. With a fatal injury rate of 35.8 per 100,000 full-time workers in that year, garbage and recycling collectors were more at risk of dying on the job than farmers, steel workers, truck drivers and electrical power line workers.

On Jan. 25, the National Waste & Recycling Association began a week-long safety awareness and training campaign called Safety Stand Down. Companies that participated in the safety effort conducted job site inspections, reviewed safety policies and considered improvements that could be made to their workplace safety efforts. Employees were then trained on changes to safety procedures and provided with safety materials.

The high rate of fatal workplace injuries was one of the main reasons the safety week was organized. Though the total number of civilian fatalities across all industries reached a four-year low in 2014, the fatal injury rate for refuse and recyclable material collectors has remained relatively stable. There is also concern about the rate of non-fatal work injuries in the garbage and recyclable collecting industry.

Some workplace injuries in the garbage collecting industry are caused by failures in safety procedures while others are caused by human error. In most cases, injured workers can file a claim for benefits through their employer's workers' compensation coverage. An attorney can often be of assistance in collecting the documentation required to support the claim.

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