This month’s column is not going to be a shameless plug for the National Solid Waste Management Association’s (NSWMA) safety seminar taking place on April 7 in Atlanta, where attendees will learn how to reduce accidents and injuries as well as improve their compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. Instead, it is going to be shameless plug for WasteExpo, which takes place May 9-12 in Dallas, and its wide variety of opportunities to learn about safety issues and see safety-related products.
The conference program includes sessions on using visual communications to improve workplace safety, the federal government’s perspective on our industry’s declining fatality and injury rates, and the implications of the aging workforce for industry safety. A federal researcher recently suggested to me that one reason municipal sanitation departments may have a much higher incident rate than private sector solid waste companies is they tend to have older workers, so this session should be of particular interest to solid waste managers in the public sector.
The co-located Waste Training Institute (WTI) returns after making its debut last year in Atlanta, and once again one of the WTI sessions will be about safety. WTI will be holding a 90-minute session titled “Safety Update and Right Side vs. Left Side Driving.” In it, I will be reviewing the latest data on industry and third-party fatalities, the injury rate for industry employees, and updating attendees on OSHA and DOT regulatory and enforcement initiatives. My co-speaker will be discussing whether driving from the left or right side results in more accidents, based on the data his company is collecting.
NSWMA’s Safety Committee also will be meeting at WasteExpo. The preliminary agenda for that meeting includes OSHA’s soon-to-be-proposed rules governing combustible dust and its Injury and Illness Prevention Program, which goes by the unfortunate name of I2P2. I2P2 is OSHA’s top regulatory priority, and I expect OSHA to propose I2P2 regulations by the end of the year. Another important topic to be discussed at the meeting will be enhancements to NSWMA’s “Slow Down to Get Around” program, including a new flyer being developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that private haulers and local governments should use to educate motorists about the hazard they pose to solid waste collection employees. Struck-by accidents continue to happen regularly, and these new flyers hopefully will be effective in preventing them.
Of course, a main reason to attend WasteExpo is to walk the exhibit hall, and I suspect that, as in previous years, there will be a substantial number of exhibitors selling safety-related equipment and services. These exhibitors include insurance providers, personal protective equipment manufacturers, backup safety systems providers, decal manufacturers and consultants. The “traditional” exhibitors of trucks, disposal equipment, balers and compactors have made changes to some of their equipment in recent years to improve their safety performance, and I am certain their personnel are eager to show it off to you.
The goal for everyone in the industry, whether they are a small hauler, one of the large national companies or a municipal sanitation department, should be to improve their safety performance. WasteExpo provides a unique opportunity to learn and obtain tools that will help you reduce the frequency of fatalities, accidents and injuries.