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Waste Safety Program Aims at Distracted Drivers

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“Slow Down to Get Around” changes emphasis and hones in on distracted drivers.

When Rumpke Consolidated Cos. and McNeilus Cos. created the “Slow Down to Get Around” program in January 2004 following two incidents in which Rumpke collection employees were struck by motorists, the program focused on impatient motorists who get frustrated when their route is blocked, however briefly, by a garbage truck. A few years later, when the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) developed a “Slow Down to Get Around” public service announcement (PSA), the emphasis was different: The PSA showed a distracted driver on a cell phone almost running into a collection worker who was behind a refuse truck.

In 2009 and 2010, motorists striking collection workers was one of the leading causes of workplace deaths in the solid waste industry. In many of these incidents, the motorist was distracted by texting or a cell phone call. In response, NSWMA is providing new tools for haulers and local governments to use to communicate the “Slow Down to Get Around” message.

Last month, the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved a NIOSH-NSWMA “Slow Down to Get Around” flyer. NIOSH’s endorsement of the program marks an important milestone in the solid waste industry’s effort to reduce the frequency of struck-by accidents. The flyer is intended to be used as a bill stuffer that private haulers and local sanitation departments can share with their customers; it informs people about the inherent dangers that drivers and helpers face from motorists when collecting trash and recyclables. The flyer has been designed to allow users to customize it with a picture of one of their trucks. NSWMA urges all waste collection entities to request the flyer at sdtga@envasns.org.

In partnership with Veolia Environmental Services, NSWMA also has developed a Facebook page for Slow Down to Get Around. Reasoning that Facebook users are younger and therefore are statistically more likely to be texting while driving, NSWMA has partnered with several other companies to develop content for this page and will be updating it frequently with news and photos. NSWMA requests that Waste Age readers and others visit and “like” this page.

NSWMA continues to offer Slow Down to Get Around truck decals to haulers and local governments. More than 7,000 of these decals have been distributed. The decals are available in three sizes by e-mailing sdtga@envasns.org.

The PSA also is available and is a powerful tool to use at community events and with employees to emphasize the importance of workplace safety. The PSA is on the NSWMA website and YouTube, and a copy can be obtained for free from NSWMA.

Waste haulers also should reemphasize the program’s original mission: urging members of the public to drive slowly around garbage trucks. Doing so may reduce the frequency of cars crashing into the back of stopped or slowing trucks; these accidents often result in serious injuries (or worse) to waste truck drivers. The more we can do to educate motorists about the dangers they pose to themselves, the safer our industry’s workers will be. Join the Slow Down to Get Around program and help improve workplace and community safety.

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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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