James Englehardt, 3/00, #00-01 (4,410 Kb)

This report presents the findings of a study to evaluate and reduce occupational risks to Florida municipal solid waste (MSW) workers, and to ascertain what is known concerning risks to residents of communities near to MSW landfills. The study consisted of (1) comprehensive literature reviews concerning risks to MSW workers, and to communities near MSW landfills; (2) Workers' Compensation (WC) data analysis and predictive Bayesian probabilistic assessment of injury characteristics, WC costs and injury frequencies; (3) development of recommendations for reducing injuries and deaths; and (4) educational outreach to MSW facilities and governmental agencies. Results of the overall study indicated high rates of mortality, injury, and disease among MSW collectors. In particular, the driver/helper occupational group suffered an average of 9.8 WC cases of greater than seven calendar lost work days (LWD) per 100 workers annually, 7.4 times higher than the rate for the general workforce in Florida. Actual numbers of injuries were found to be an order of magnitude higher than the numbers of WC claims. This finding agreed with survey results of this study and indicates high chronic morbidity. Mortality of MSW drivers and helpers was estimated at 90 ± 30 deaths per 100,000 workers per year, ranking between rates reported for the second and third deadliest occupations nationally. For the assessed 10% of injuries which became WC cases (>7 LWD), an average annual cost of $12.6 million (1998 basis) was found for Florida. Total costs, including those compensated by employers and borne by workers and communities, may be much greater. Consistent with other studies, skin conditions (rashes), respiratory, and gastrointestinal ailments were reported frequently by collectors in the present survey. Safety recommendations included team-training techniques for crews, public education efforts regarding safe passing of trucks by motorists and disposal of waste, accountability of route supervisors for injuries, redesign of safety vests, warning lights and signs on trucks, and testing of container weight by collectors before lifting. Concerns regarding liability within the solid waste industry were found to be a major obstacle to the flow of information regarding accident prevention. Risks to populations proximal to MSW landfills are largely unknown. General recommendations included research on non-methane airborne emissions from MSW landfills.

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