Safety First: Industry Leaders Offer Tools, Tips for National Safety Month

NWRA and SWANA are providing valuable tools and tips to help those in the waste and recycling industry stay safe on the job.

Observed annually in June, National Safety Month raises awareness about staying safe and focuses on reducing leading causes of injuries, incidents and fatalities in the workplace, on the road and in communities.

Created by the National Safety Council, National Safety Month is celebrated in various industries including the waste and recycling industry, which is ranked on the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. list. While safety is top of mind for members of the industry, the end of the school year and start of summer bring many distractions that often lead to higher-than-usual incidents and injuries, as shown through data and trends.

In an effort to remind those in the industry to take the proper steps and actions to stay safe not just during National Safety Month but all the time, leading industry associations, the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), are sharing helpful tools and tips.

“Keeping workers and communities safe while collecting and managing waste and recyclables is a big challenge, and nothing we do at SWANA is more important,” says David Biderman, executive director and CEO of SWANA. “Different employers have varying levels of expertise relative to safety, but everyone wants their workers to go home to their families at the end of the day, with all 10 fingers and toes. The recent expansion of SWANA’s safety program (e.g., Safety Ambassadors at chapter level, frequent safety training, Hauler Safety Toolkit, etc.) includes efforts to get best practices and other safety information to those who need it most and to help reduce accidents and injuries in both the public and private sector in both the U.S. and Canada.”

NWRA has a weekly safety email called Safety Monday that includes safety information and tips, and for the month of June, the association released a number of Safety Mondays as part of its Water.Rest.Shade Safety Stand Down, which focused on keeping collection workers safe during hot weather. The Stand Down aligned with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Construction Outreach Program’s Focus Four—Falls, Caught-In or -Between, Stuck-By and Electrocution. NWRA focused on struck-by hazards and caught-in or -between hazards, which are the two that impact the waste and recycling industry’s Bureau of Labor Statistics injury, illness and fatality data at landfills, materials recovery facilities and transfer stations the most.

“Safety is important all the time, but June tends to be that month when people’s minds start drifting from safety because they are thinking about vacation, their families, having fun, etc.,” says Tony Hargis, national safety director at NWRA. “As an association, we never relinquish from our responsibility toward safety, and we use the month of June to heighten the sense of safety and to get people’s focus back on safety in the workplace.”

In this gallery, you will find safety tips for collection employees, landfill employees, waste-to-energy operations, composting operations, materials recovery facilities and transfer stations as well as tips for creating a safety culture.

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