The Safety Evolution

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles about ANSI safety standards and solid waste equipment.

NOTHING, OF COURSE, is ever absolutely safe. But industry observers agree that the recently revised ANSI standard will improve the safety of refuse vehicles and their operators. Titled “Mobile Wastes and Recyclable Materials Collection, Transportation and Compaction Equipment — Safety Requirements,” the ANSI Z245.1-2007 standard is slated to take effect a little more than a year from now.

The revision of the ANSI Z245.1 standard was facilitated by the Washington, D.C.-based Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC), which serves as the Z245 Committee Secretariat. Under ANSI guidelines, every standard, once issued, must be reviewed and re-affirmed or updated every five years. In short, standards evolve, growing stronger over time.

With a variety of issues to be addressed in revisions, it is often difficult to quickly reach consensus. Sometimes the discussions surrounding updates grows so heated that the committees studying the issues petition ANSI for an extension. That is what happened to the committee updating the Z245.1 standard, which was issued in 1999.

An affirmation or update should have come out in 2004. But the parties were debating several issues, which meant the new ANSI Z245.1 standard didn't receive final committee approval until early this year.

“Our ANSI safety standards are a way for us to say to people and companies new to the industry that we have learned certain lessons about safety the hard way,” says Michael Lambert, corporate director of safety with Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Republic Services. “We've written those lessons down here so that others can avoid learning the hard way. At the end of the day, these standards are written for one reason: to keep people safe so that industry people and the public all get to go home at the end of the day.”

The ANSI Z245.1- 2007 standard is a 61-page document. By and large, it affirms what the 1999 standard said. But it also includes five key changes covering front loader windshield guards, automated side loader requirements, grapple loader requirements, front loader fork transit position and safety clothing. Each of these changes will affect manufacturers and users in one way or another.

Windshield Guards

In the past, front loader windshield guard designs employed crossbars that made them resemble ladders. While it is unclear as to whether this was done to provide structural support or a secondary ladder, drivers decided that the guards made good ladders for climbing onto the roof of the cab to remove trash, free protruding items from the hopper and clear jams. However, without fall protection systems, climbing to the top of the cab can be dangerous. It is too easy to fall and a fall from that height can lead to serious injury.

The 1999 standard does not define windshield guards, but the new standard does. It says that a windshield guard is “a bar or other means of protection to prevent the container from making contact with the windshield.” It also defines a cab guard, often confused with a windshield guard, as a “shield over the truck cab of a front loader used to prevent debris from falling on cab and between cab and body.”

While the new standard makes clear to haulers and operators that the windshield guard is not and should not be used as a ladder, no one believes that simply telling drivers not to climb up on top of the cab will prevent the practice. So the standard defines an acceptable windshield guard design: “The windshield guard shall be designed so as not to be used as access to the top of the cab, cab guard or the top of the body. Conformity with this clause is the responsibility of the person(s) who design, manufacture, or install this equipment.”

“We have already reacted to this standard,” says Steve Ginter, vocational product manager with Allentown, Pa.- based Mack Trucks Inc. “We have eliminated handholds and footholds and positioned it closer to the cab so you can't climb it.”

To support the goal of the new windshield guard design, the standard also suggests a new tool for haulers called a reaching pole. It is a telescoping pole designed to clean debris off the top of the front loader cab and further assist in keeping drivers off the top of vehicles. “We're installing fiberglass reaching poles that drivers can use to pull bags off the top of the truck,” Lambert of Republic Services says. “It's a great new idea.”

Automated Side Loaders

This standard has always covered automated side loaders, but the increasing prevalence of this equipment demands clarification of certain safety requirements as they apply to both manufacturers and users.

The new standard requires that manufacturers provide operating control levers or joysticks for automated side loaders that require sustained manual pressure to operate, so that when the driver releases the lever or joystick, the arm will stop moving.

In addition, trucks that provide controls for the side loader arm outside of the truck cab must locate those controls way from the arm's area of operation. Finally, the standard requires a sign near the operating arm cautioning users (and the public) of the danger and warning them to stand clear of the device while it is in operation.

In response, Mack has designed a drop frame chassis modification. “This option is tailored to the use of an automatic side loader,” Ginter says.

Most manufacturers already provide this control feature. “Continuous pressure controls are a standard operating feature that we have used for years,” says Jeffrey Swertfeger, director of marketing and communications with McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing Inc. in Dodge Center, Minn. “You don't want the arm moving when the operator isn't holding the control. So as soon as pressure is released, the arm stops moving.”

Michel Fillion, vice president for engineering and research and development for Labrie Environment Group in St. Nicolas, Quebec, Canada, says controls requiring continuous pressure are a standard for Labrie, too. “In the past, there were accidents,” he says. “This is why Labrie and other manufacturers installed these safety systems.”

The revised standard also demands that haulers certify employees to operate arm-equipped vehicles, including instruction related to overhead clearance required during normal operation of the lifting device as well as instruction about clearing obstructions that might get in the arm's way.

“These are best industry practices, and we have made training in these areas part of our rulebook,” says Jose Flores, manager of safety operations for Waste Management Safety Services, a division of Houston-based Waste Management.

Grapple Loader Safety

The standard defines grapple loaders (also called clam shells, claw trucks and crane trucks) as hydro-mechanical devices able to rotate on an axis with a grapple or bucket attached at the end of a boom. They are used to collect waste that cannot, because of size or weight, be containerized.

Local governments are increasingly using grapple loaders to pick up and haul white goods, large yard and tree debris, and to clean up after destructive storms. Given the growing use of grapple loaders, the committee received a petition requesting that the new standard include requirements for users.

Requirements covered in the 2007 standard include training and safety procedures to be used when operating near people and electrical lines. To avoid contact with electrical lines, operators should ensure that all parts of the machine are at least 10 feet away from power lines.

The new standard also requires that operators use load charts provided by the manufacturer and that they adhere to recommended procedures for loading dump trucks to ensure safety when the trucks are on the road or at a landfill or other disposal site. It also touches on the importance of using outriggers correctly to maintain stability during loading and warns against reckless uses of the outriggers that may cause injuries or property damage.

“Using a grapple loader isn't rocket science, but safe operating procedures need to be documented and made a part of training,” says Ralph Ford, manager of corporate health and safety with Waste Industries in Raleigh, N.C. “The standards also give us meaty arguments when we tell operators to adopt safe procedures. We can say that this isn't just our opinion. This is an industry standard that everyone is expected to observe. It also gives you a tool that you can take to customers and show them why your operator is handling a job in a way that may seem inefficient. That's important.”

Fork Position

Perhaps one of the most important changes in the 2007 standard involves the position of a front loader's forks when the truck is on the road. Drivers have traditionally cheated a bit on this point, preferring not to set forks in the transit position when the distance between stops is short.

The new standard addresses this by defining transit as traveling on the road from the employer's yard to the collection route, from the end of the collection route to the disposal or processing facility, from a facility back to the yard, and operation between facilities. More to the point, the standard tells drivers that transit includes operation of the truck between collection points when speed exceeds 20 mph.

According to the standard, during travel, the front loader arms shall be in one of two positions as designated by the specific refuse vehicle manufacturer: with the fork pivot shaft positioned just above the top of the windshield, or with the arms in a full up position, with the forks fully folded toward the hopper.

Drivers also must take note of overhead clearances, including those related to power lines. During transit, neither the fork, the arms nor the pivot tube should be higher than 13 feet, 6 inches above the road, except where permitted by local or state authorities.

According to Swertfeger, McNeilus incorporated a visual alarm on the dashboard a number of years ago to track the position of the fork. “When the arms are above the cab and not stowed, the light comes on,” he says.

Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Heil Environmental's reaction to this standard is emblematic of its importance. “Thanks to this standard, we'll rewrite our operations manual to note this recommended transit position: above the windshield with the forks folded back,” says Nate David, a product manager with Heil.

“This is important,” Flores of Waste Management says. “You often see front loaders with the forks positioned below the windshield. That can cause great damage in an accident when the fork can become a battering ram.”

Waste Industries already enforces the gist of this standard, Ford says. But he also notes the importance of staying in touch with drivers about the issue. “You have to evaluate areas where the cans are,” he says. “You have to document low wires and observe drivers while operating. From the driver's point of view, it can seem too time consuming to put the forks into the transit position when traveling only a short distance. So you have to keep your eyes open.”

Waste Management trains drivers to report stops where moving through a yard with the forks up may pose a hazard, according to Flores. “We train drivers to bring these situations to the attention of the dispatcher,” he says. “It might be necessary for a sales representative to go to the site and talk with the customer about conditions that make it unsafe to operate front loaders. In most cases, customers solve the problem. But we have had some say that there is nothing they can or will do about certain situations, and we've refused to contract with them.”

High Visibility

Finally, the new standard has added a much-needed requirement related to high-visibility safety attire for collection employees. The standard describes the type of garments an employee must wear to maintain visibility to other workers or third parties.

“We require our guys to wear ANSI approved clothing, such as lime green reflective vests,” Flores says. “In fact, we have just signed a contract with safety apparel vendors for ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 high-visibility safety apparel, which is what the new standard calls for.”

Some vehicle manufacturers even sell the approved safety apparel. “We have been carrying reflective vests and other high-visibility apparel for quite some time,” Swertfeger says.

Over the next five years, manufacturers and haulers alike will think about the safety performance of their equipment and their people. When the time comes, the ANSI Z245.1 standard will evolve again, to a new level of effectiveness, and WASTEC member companies as well as users will all be part of the process.

Phil Headley is the manager of technical programs for the Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC). Michael Fickes is a contributing writer based in Westminster, Md.


For more information about ANSI standards and solid waste equipment, visit and click on the “ANSI Z245 Standards” link. The page includes an overview of the standard development process.

Also, read “Safety Squeeze,” which appears on p. 42 of Waste Age's March 2007 issue. The article, the first in the author's series on ANSI standards, details the standards that apply to stationary compactors.