PROFILE: Safety Training Is Key

WW: What are the major safety issues in the waste industry?

DW: The major problems that we face in the waste industry, when dealing with safety issues, concern driver ability, driver error, the driver's ability to use good defensive driving habits and, lastly, the ability to find and retain good drivers. In addition, throughout the waste industry, I think liability costs are the highest.

WW: What are the key elements of a good safety program?

DW: Employee selection, training and education are the most important.

WW: What are the most difficult areas in a safety program to manage or oversee?

DW: I think the most difficult part of implementing a successful safety program is convincing employees to buy into the program. The main goal of any safety program always should be that the employee comes to realize the program will benefit him/her and, thus, it will benefit the company as a whole.

WW: Are there equipment modifications or specific kinds of equipment that a safety manager should strongly consider?

DW: I think, most recently, we have strongly focused on getting personal protective equipment and programs in place. I believe that other companies in the industry may not have considered this yet, but, in my opinion, probably should.

Also, backup cameras should be standard items on most vehicles; there are only a few where it really isn't practical. For the most part, Waste Management includes a rear view camera on all of its waste collection equipment as part of our standard safety equipment.

WW: Can you give examples of how investing in safety products and training has yielded economic benefits?

DW: Yes. For example, the backup camera that we just discussed cost on the average around $1,000, whereas a small fender-bender might cost as much as $500 or $600. Of course, the life of a person cannot be estimated in dollars, therefore we feel that the $1,000 investment is well worth it.

It is also important to maintain an effective employee training program. I believe Waste Management began its employee training program in the 1970s, and since that time a noticeable decrease in the frequency of accidents has occurred. We attribute this decrease directly to our training program.