On May 16, 2016, the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) launched a weeklong training and awareness initiative focused on keeping collection workers safe during hot weather. It was the NWRA’s second Safety Stand Down this year. This effort aimed to reduce illness, fatalities and injuries that can occur as a result of dehydration, heat stroke, heat exposure and other health challenges that can occur in hot weather.
On the heels of a January NWRA Safety Stand Down on Vehicle Backing, the NWRA said the second Stand Down exceeded expectations and by nearly doubling participation numbers. In January, NWRA engaged 60 percent of the industry in its first Stand Down. This time around, the NWRA said 65 percent of the industry took part, composed of 138 participants and 87 companies.
The association was joined by a regional waste and recycling associations and the municipal waste community. Those groups include the California Refuse and Recycling Council, the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association, the Washington Refuse and Recycling Association, the International Scrap Recycling Institute and the Solid Waste Association of North America.
A new participant to NWRA’s Safety Stand Down series in May was the City of Phoenix Public Works Department.
During the Stand Down, safety supervisors completed checklists created by NWRA to track their progress throughout the week. Along with presenting information, safety supervisors engaged with staff by reminding them in the field to take breaks, stay hydrated, take photos and ask staff how they felt about the Stand Down. Safety supervisors also posted information in various areas for staff to be well aware of the Stand Down.”
As declared in NWRA's 2016-2018 strategic plan, safety is a top priority for the association and its members. During this Stand Down, NWRA provided participating companies and municipalities with the tools, guidance and support necessary to move the needle on heat-related health incidents. In 2014, 1,160 injury and illness cases with lost workdays involved exposure to environmental heat in the services providing industries. The waste and recycling industry falls into this sector
According to the NWRA, “The Stand Down helped companies increase their focus on safety training by encouraging employee safety sessions during the week; conducting a risk assessment and review of heat-related policies and procedures; and posting Stand Down information at facilities and on social media sites to make employees aware of this effort. Daily meetings on sites nationwide provided valuable opportunities for workers to share their concerns, questions and interests in new training and resources. Some participants held hydration events to ensure employees practiced healthy habits to keep them safe in high temperature environments.”
In addition to active engagement by participating at facilities throughout the country, the Stand Down achieved significant social media attention that yielded 11,100 Twitter impressions and 10,800 Facebook impressions. Through this campaign, Twitter engagement grew by 162 percent and Facebook engagement by 46 percent when compared to NWRA’s average for the past 12 weeks. This exposure brought 92 new Twitter followers and 25 new Facebook fans to the association’s social media identities throughout the course of the Stand Down.
The NWRA will launch a third Stand Down event during the Back to School season on precautions for industry workers and the public on keeping all members of our communities safe as the roads get busier.