Safety First

Waste Safety is a Team Effort

Who is responsible for safety at your company or sanitation department?

If you answered “the safety manager,” you are wrong. Safety is the responsibility of every employee in your organization, from the CEO to the district manager to the general manager to the dispatcher to the supervisor to the front-line drivers, helpers, heavy equipment operators and mechanics. In fact, safety starts at the top, so if the boss does not make safety a top priority, chances are the men and women who work for him will not either.

For companies and sanitation departments to be successful at reducing their accidents and injuries, each worker needs to make operational safety a core part of his or her work, each and every day. The employers that have successfully reduced their injury or accident rates over the past decade have established a safety culture, in which everyone is responsible and accountable for safety. The results are fewer incidents, lower employee turnover and improved morale. Some safety experts in the solid waste and recycling industry believe one of the reasons local governments have a much higher incident rate than private solid waste employers is because the private sector has been more successful at achieving a change in the safety culture at their companies.

Of course, a safety manager plays an important role by establishing proper procedures and training, auditing what is happening in the field, and monitoring compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) rules and regulations. But if the safety manager does not have support from top management, it can be very difficult to reduce accidents and injuries. Similarly, even the best safety manager’s efforts will be stymied if the supervisors do not take safety seriously. And at many smaller employers, in both the private and public sectors, there is no safety manager, imposing an even greater responsibility for operational safety on each employee.

To some degree, the same is true at the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) and Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC). Safety is a core association program, and our safety program would not be successful without the great and hard work of the entire NSWMA/WASTEC staff. Nearly everyone at the associations contributes to and participates in the safety program. Whether it’s Lea Pasternak identifying articles about accidents in our daily news clips, Carey Lawrence processing safety video orders, Cai Owens working on the ANSI standards, Sasha Southcott developing PowerPoint presentations, or Chaz Miller writing comments on proposed revisions to various DOT regulations, virtually the entire staff interfaces with members and others on safety-related topics. Many of us will be at WasteExpo next month in Dallas. Please come by our booth to learn more about how NSWMA’s safety videos, WASTEC’s ANSI standards, the EIA Safety Manual, our Slow Down to Get Around program and other services can help you reduce accidents and injuries and improve OSHA/DOT compliance. And be sure to thank the staff for the great work they do!

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