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Special Report: Safety

Ensuring the Safety of Waste & Recycling Workers

Large and small waste companies compete on a daily basis for customers. The private sector and the public sector often disagree over who gets to decide where waste is disposed and the rules governing collection, processing, and disposal. However, there is one thing that everyone in the waste and recycling industry agrees on: we need to make sure the hard working men and women who collect America’s trash and recyclables get home, every day, to their families. The National Waste & Recycling Association’s (NWRA) safety program provides useful tools to companies and local governments to help accomplish that goal.

In recent years, NWRA has expanded its advocacy at the state level to include protecting workers. Last year, we persuaded Florida and West Virginia to pass Slow Down to Get Around laws that require motorists to either slow down when passing a stopped garbage truck, or to move away from the vehicle.

In 2015, we are pushing for similar laws in additional states, including Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. In several of these states, legislation has already been introduced and hearings scheduled. In others, NWRA lobbyists are meeting with state legislators to educate them about the hazards faced by waste collection workers and to encourage them to sponsor the bill. Members are actively involved, and in at least one state, the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) local chapter has endorsed our efforts. (Thank you SWANA!) We expect SWANA’s support in other states as legislation is introduced and considered.

Being struck by a motorist is a leading cause of death for collection employees. Sometimes, the driver of the other vehicle is distracted or having a medical issue. In other incidents, he/she is exceeding the speed limit or simply not aware that someone’s parent, spouse, sibling, son or daughter  is near that big truck with the flashing lights. We need to reduce—and ideally eliminatethese tragic incidents.

Passing tougher laws is one of the tools in NWRA’s Slow Down to Get Around toolbox. Others include the stickers promoting the program that can be seen on garbage trucks from New York City to California; public outreach at local events; and social media. Working together, we can reduce the frequency of a driver hitting a collection worker, and improve our safety performance as an industry.

NWRA invites the industry and the general public to use these tools to learn about everyone’s role in keeping waste and recycling workers safe. Information and resources can be found at our site.

For more information, please contact David Biderman at 202-364-3743 or [email protected]

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