Safety First

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Helping those in greatest need of waste safety resources – but who may not know it.

Several months ago, the Environmental Research and Educational Foundation (EREF) approached me about co-authoring an article on the safety-related programs that the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA) and EREF have jointly developed. The article, which appears on page 36 in this month’s issue, reviews the past decade’s safety accomplishments -- the “Slow Down to Get Around” public education program, the “Be Safe, Be Proud” industry safety videos, the truck simulator, EIA’s Safety Monday newsletter, and the soon-to-be-updated EIA Manual of Recommended Safety Practices -- and how they have contributed to the declining fatality and injury rates in the industry.

These are all noteworthy accomplishments, and the waste and recycling industry should be proud of them. But what has me excited about the coming year is the increasing number of small haulers and municipal sanitation departments who are contacting our associations for safety-related assistance. These employers are finding our safety program on the Internet. They are reading about it in Waste Age and other industry periodicals. Maybe they attended WasteExpo, the Global Waste Management Symposium or other industry events, and learned we have terrific safety tools that can help them reduce the frequency of accidents and injuries. Some people find us in the Solid Waste Safety group on LinkedIn or like us on Facebook.

Some small companies contact us because they recently had a significant accident or were visited and cited by the friendly inspectors at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Others are looking to upgrade their safety program, and when they Google the words “solid waste safety, ” we show up in the results. Numerous municipalities have contacted us this year, and we are providing customized safety training for two of them this month.

Why am I particularly excited that more small companies are contacting us? Because these employers are the ones that need the most assistance. The large national companies in the solid waste and recycling industry have sophisticated safety programs and dedicated safety personnel to help their drivers, helpers and other workers reduce accidents and injuries. At some small haulers and sanitation departments, I’m concerned that the safety program is, “Here’s your vest. Now, don’t get hurt. ” And based on what I see on the streets in the Washington area, I’m not sure the driver or helper was ever issued a vest, or knows to use the safety belt.

And don’t even get me started on helpers standing on the riding step while the truck is backing.

Small solid waste and recycling companies have a disproportionate and growing percentage of the industry’s accidents that result in the death of an employee. They don’t know about the ANSI Z245 standards, “Slow Down to Get Around” or Safety Monday. We have been reaching out to these smaller haulers for years, and will redouble our efforts to do so in 2013 and beyond.

But we need your help.

We need you to tell your customers, vendors and competitors about EIA’s terrific safety program. We are part of a terrific, dynamic and evolving industry. The increasing fractionalization of the waste stream poses new safety challenges.

But we share the same goal: We want everyone to go home to their families at the end of the day, a little smelly perhaps, but healthy. Help us achieve that objective. Every day.

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What's Safety First?

Phil Hagan, director of safety for the National Waste & Recycling Associa, keeps an eye on safety issues affecting the waste and recycling industries.

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Phil Hagan

Phil Hagan is the Director of Safety for the National Waste & Recycling Association, a practicing attorney and teaches at Georgetown University.
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