In recent years, a number of landfill and transfer station employees and visiting truck drivers have been killed on jobsites when they were struck by mobile equipment such as loaders or compactors. In addition to the heartbreaking loss of human life, these accidents can result in large workers' compensation or general liability claims. In an effort to prevent such tragedies, landfill and transfer station operators should review their current safety procedures and explore the new technologies that can help prevent these accidents.
Preventing mobile equipment accidents begins with well-designed traffic flow into and out of the landfill or transfer station. Traffic patterns for incoming and outgoing waste collection vehicles should be clearly defined, so that equipment operators know where to expect pedestrian traffic. Designated areas for tarping and untarping should be located away from the tipping area and isolated from equipment traffic. If the landfill or transfer station allows small contractors or the general public into the facility, then a separate drop-off area should be set up a safe distance from the traffic patterns of the mobile equipment and large collection vehicles.
Operators of transfer stations and landfills need to establish safety rules for both employees and visitors. Workers and visitors must be required to wear high-visibility clothing at all times. Drivers of collection vehicles coming into the facility to tip should be required to remain within six feet of their trucks at all times. If the facility allows access to the general public, then rules requiring children to remain in vehicles at all times and the prohibition of scavenging should be strictly enforced.
The use of spotters to facilitate traffic flow and enforce safety rules is important. However, spotters must be well-trained and constantly aware of their surroundings, as they are similarly at risk of being run over by mobile equipment or a collection truck. Transfer stations and landfills should conduct on-going training for mobile equipment operators, spotters and all other yard personnel to avoid pedestrian accidents.
In addition to the standard backing alarms that should be installed on all mobile equipment, many waste companies have installed rear-vision cameras, similar to those used on collection trucks, to give equipment operators a better view of their rear blind spots. New technologies such as radio frequency (RF) transmitters could offer an additional element of protection. These RF systems, frequently used in the mining industry, incorporate the use of small transmitters, or “tags,” clipped on the belts of yard personnel and a receiver unit placed on mobile equipment. If the mobile equipment comes into close of proximity of a “tagged” individual, an audible warning can be given, and with some systems, the receiver actually stops the piece of mobile equipment. These technologies, including Body Guard by Orbit Communications and the Collision Avoidance System (CAS) by AMT, show merit for application in the waste industry.
Bruce Hooker works for Mattei Insurance Services, Inc. based in Sacramento, Calif.