EIA Ergonomics Training at WasteExpo

Seminars help WasteExpo attendees to comply with OSHA's ergonomic standards.

The Environmental Research and Education Foundation and the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), both based in Washington, D.C., are hosting an educational seminar that will teach waste industry professionals how to comply with new federal safety standards addressing worker ergonomics injuries, and how to prevent workers from being injured.

The session, “Reducing Ergonomics Risks to the Solid Waste Employee,” will take place at this year's WasteExpo on April 5, at McCormick Place South, Chicago.

The seminar, which is the second in a series of four being held this year, will teach safety personnel and others how the new ergonomics regulations apply to solid waste employers and employees. Also, the session will give attendees an understanding of the musculoskeletal disorders that affect workers, such as repetitive stress injuries, back pain, muscle tears and sprains.

Participants also will learn how to identify common injury risk factors, evaluate work practices and equipment design, and prioritize solutions to make the workplace safer.

The session will review tools employers can use to train employees how to reduce injuries and will include an overview of current industry best-management practices.

Last January, the first of the ergonomics series seminars took place in Houston. Approximately 35 public and private sector waste industry representatives attended the seminar and reviewed the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA), Washington, D.C., final ergonomics regulations, discussed the feasibility of meeting these requirements and shared best-management practices while brainstorming ways to address the issues.

“I attended the seminar to better understand OSHA's regulations from the waste industry's perspective and to get ideas for how my company is going to comply with them,” said Laura Alberts of Western Disposal Services, Boulder, Colo. “Based on the seminar, we are putting together a committee that will focus on this issue.”

Seminar organizers also received new ideas regarding which issues upcoming sessions should focus on, based on feedback they received from participants at the Houston meeting.

“The main thing we learned from the Houston session is that the company safety supervisors want to attend a seminar that focuses on practical, real-life issues,” said EIA General Counsel David Biderman, who has worked to plan the seminar's content and format. “They know that workers get hurt on the job, and they want to know what they need to do to stop people from getting hurt.”

Biderman noted that the association received strong, positive feedback from the seminar attendees. According to a survey that the participants filled out at the end of the session, 91 percent of the attendees stated that the seminar would be “very useful” in helping their company develop an ergonomics program that complies with OSHA's new requirements.

“And all of the participants said they would be providing the information presented at the seminar to their companies' employees,” Biderman added.

The instructor for the April seminar will be Susan Eppes, an experienced safety manager, who serves as safety director with Waste Management's Safety Division, Houston, and was a former safety director for Browning-Ferris Industries, Houston.

The foundation and EIA received an OSHA grant to organize the sessions to provide safety and health training programs for workers in the solid waste management industry [see Waste Age, October 2000, page 132].

Two more session will be held this year. One session will be held in the Southeast region in July, and the other in the New York City region in September. The association will reapply for additional funding from OSHA to continue education and training programs for solid waste industry employees during the next four years.

To register for the April conference, call Regina Smoke at the EIA toll-free at (800) 424-2869. If you have further questions about OSHA's final ergonomics regulations, call David Biderman at (202) 364-3743.

The Education Foundation, formed in 1992 by leaders in the solid waste services industry, is a growing source of funding for research on technological innovation in waste management, better workplace safety and practices, and scholarships to help foster tomorrow's leaders in environmental science.

Jenny Heumann is the Washington, D.C.- based Environmental Industry Associations' public affairs manager.