Industries that fail to regulate themselves adequately will eventually receive their comeuppance.
For example, Enron's financial misdeeds have caused procedures employed by all public accounting firms to come into question and likely will lead the federal government to impose strict new regulations on accounting practices.
Nevertheless, through proper self-regulation, many industries can reasonably succeed in preventing the eruption of these kinds of problems.
The waste management industry has been successfully regulating itself for nearly 30 years. Since the 1970s, the Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC), part of the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), Washington, D.C., has helped to develop equipment, facility and safety standards.
Ten years ago, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md., joined the self-regulation effort by introducing the first of seven certified training programs.
Today, these standards and certifications touch virtually every service and manufacturing company in the industry.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Washington, D.C., has accredited the EIA to develop standards for equipment technology and operations in the areas of wastes and recyclable materials, according to Nate Wall, WASTEC's manager of technical programs. Under this accreditation, the association develops standards that carry the ANSI designation Z245.
These are voluntary consensus equipment and operation standards developed by industry veterans, not government regulators, with the goal of enhancing competition within the growing worldwide waste industry.
Voluntary though they may be, these standards have teeth. When cited in federal regulations, as they often are, ANSI Z245s become enforceable. The standards themselves sometimes cite federal regulations to justify recommended procedures.
Either way, the ANSI Z245 standards argue for compliance because of potential legal implications — even if no interplay exists between governmental regulations and the standards.
“These standards represent best industry practices,” Wall says. “As such, an attorney representing an accident victim might point to a pertinent standard as support for a claim of negligence. Even if a standard isn't legally binding, its existence might sway an argument in court.”
To establish a negligence claim, a plaintiff must show three things, says William A. McDaniel Jr., attorney with the Baltimore law firm McDaniel, Bennett & Griffin. “First, you must establish that a standard of care exists,” he says. “Second, you must show that a person failed to live up to that standard of care. Third, you must establish that the breach caused the injury.
“Courts will often admit evidence of industry regulations or even an employer's regulations to establish a standard of care,” McDaniel continues. “This would be evidence that a jury might accept. So industry standards are not conclusive, but they may be evidence related to the issue of whether or not there is a standard of care.”
The ANSI Z245 Standards
Currently, six ANSI Z245 standards strive to set product safety and equipment compatibility and specify performance outcomes, usually in general terms. WASTEC also is debating the draft of a seventh standard that covers safety issues for size reduction equipment, with special emphasis on tub grinders, Wall says.
“This standard was first drafted several years ago, but has yet to be released,” he says. “The subcommittee working on this standard is having trouble agreeing on critical language related to hazard descriptions.”
In developing standards, WASTEC employs a committee composed of 18 waste industry professionals. Seats drawn from a host of categories balance the committee and include: distributors (1 seat), trade associations (3 seats), commercial users (1 seat), public users (3 seats), manufacturers (5 seats), insurance (1 seat), consumer (1 seat), labor (1 seat) and regulatory agencies (2 seats).
The full committee evaluates proposals for standards. Accepted proposals pass to an appropriate subcommittee, which then gives public notice of the project. Interested parties may request to participate on the subcommittee.
The subcommittee then meets several times to draft the standard. Following reviews and revisions, the subcommittee refers the draft to the full committee, which reviews the document. Upon the full committee's approval, the public receives 60 days to comment. After that, the committee resolves any objections.
Finally, the standard goes to ANSI for final review. If all is in order, the ANSI Board of Standards Review approves the draft as an American National Standard. EIA then publishes the standard.
The existing standards are revised using the same process.
“Equipment manufacturers and the companies that buy the equipment use these standards,” Wall says. The standards help manufacturers enhance the safety of their equipment, he notes. Additionally, they help employers develop training programs and employees in the equipment's use.
SWANA Certified Training
Another aspect of self-regulation involves industry-managed training in the complex tasks industry employees are asked to perform.
As the waste industry has grown more sophisticated, SWANA has instituted certified management training programs in:
- integrated solid waste;
- transfer stations;
- construction and demolition (C&D) materials; and
- compost operations.
“Training is very important to promoting the professional development of the field and the professional standing of people that work in the field,” says John Skinner, SWANA executive director.
The association developed its first certified training program in 1992. This program, Landfill Management, includes training leading to certifications as a landfill manager, landfill inspector and landfill technical associate.
The success of this program has led SWANA to add the other six certification programs. Each program offers certification as a manager or a technical associate, depending on a candidate's initial qualifications.
Skinner estimates that approximately 10,000 candidates have taken the certification examinations in the various programs over the years. Currently, 3,000 managers and technicians hold active certifications.
“The largest number of people are certified to work in the landfill area,” Skinner says. “There are probably 800 to 1,000 active certifications for landfill managers and technicians.”
SWANA offers each of its seven programs at several locations around the country throughout the year. Local SWANA chapters with access to a certified trainer also offer the training.
An individual who meets the eligibility requirements for any of the seven courses also may choose to sit for the exam without taking the course.
Those who earn certification as a technical associate receive the same training and take the same exam as those earning a manager's certification. As a result, SWANA will upgrade a technical certification to that of manager for those who later achieve the experience required for manager certification.
SWANA certifications remain in effect for three years. To maintain a certification, managers and technicians must acquire 30 hours of continuing education during the three-year certificate period — or during any subsequent three years following a re-certification.
Qualified continuing education includes attending training courses, meetings, conferences, symposium sessions or seminars covering topics that expand or enhance skills. Re-certification requires proof of continuing education hours using a SWANA form signed by an authorized person representing the teaching facility or agency.
SWANA then reviews these materials and determines the number of hours that qualify for re-certification credit. Requests for certification must include an application and a $100 processing fee.
When SWANA develops a new certified training program, association officials discuss elements of the training with state regulatory agencies. In some cases, this cooperation becomes a formal partnership. About a dozen states, for example, require SWANA landfill manager certification.
Several other states encourage companies to require landfill managers to take the SWANA certification course. California, for example, encourages this, and SWANA has added 15 questions to the final exams administered in the state covering landfill management issues related to California.
By establishing prerequisites and training standards for management personnel, SWANA's certification program and the WASTEC standards program help companies working in the solid waste industry maintain safe, reliable and effective business practices. And in today's environment, such efforts of self-regulation are becoming ever more important.
Michael Fickes is Waste Age's business editor.
SWANA CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
While prerequisites vary slightly, each of the seven certification programs SWANA offers requires candidates for a manager's certification to possess a high school degree or general equivalency diploma (GED); a minimum of five years experience in municipal solid waste management; and a minimum of two years experience in a management or supervisory position, including a direct responsibility for daily operations in the field.
A four-year bachelor's degree in civil engineering, sanitary engineering, environmental health, environmental science, public administration or related equivalent fields can substitute for up to two years of the five-year minimum experience requirement.
Candidates interested in certification as a technical associate must demonstrate experience in planning, design, implementation, operation or promotion of a municipal solid waste system.
The course-work includes three to five days of intensive classroom training, taught by a certified trainer.
Tuition ranges from $300 to $500, depending on the course length. The final exam carries a separate charge of $125 for members and $250 for non-members.
A passing grade on the multiple-choice final exam is 70 percent.
— Michael Fickes
ANSI STANDARDS RUNDOWN
ANSI Z245.1-1999 covers technology for collection, transportation and compaction equipment for wastes and recyclable materials. It establishes safety and design requirements for the manufacture, reconstruction, modification, maintenance, service, operation and installation of mobile collecting, transporting and compacting equipment. It applies to everyone engaged in the manufacture, modification, operation, cleaning, maintenance, service or repair of this equipment.
ANSI Z245.2-1997 relates to equipment technology and operations for stationary compactors. The standard includes safety requirements for the manufacture, reconstruction, modification, maintenance, service, operation and installation of this equipment.
ANSI Z245.30-1999 sets standards for waste containers. It focuses on safety requirements for the manufacture, reconstruction, use, modification, maintenance, service, operation and installation of containers, two-wheeled carts and two-wheeled container lifters.
ANSI Z245.41-1997 focuses on recycling facilities. It establishes safety requirements for people who design, manufacture, assemble, modify, operate, clean, maintain, service and repair materials recovery facilities (MRFs) processing commingled recyclable materials.
ANSI Z245.5-1997 specifies safety requirements for baling equipment ranging from the manufacture through the operation of mechanical, electro-mechanical, hydraulic, and electro-hydraulic balers used in recycling, solid waste disposal, and raw materials handling.
ANSI Z245.60-1999 focuses on waste container dimensions. It facilitates the dimensional compatibility between various types of containers and equipment designed to lift and dump these containers. It also promotes the identification of compatible containers and lifting equipment by firms that manufacture, reconstruct, use, modify, maintain, service, operate and install containers.
— Michael Fickes