Frontline workers and companies have had to endure a series of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to be at the forefront of industry safety efforts.
Waste leaders discussed the lessons they learned while working to keep workers safe as the pandemic evolved during SWANA’s Virtual Safety Summit. They also provided best practices and insight into collection and post-collection safety.
David Biderman, SWANA CEO and executive director, told attendees that whether they work in public sector or the private sector, at a large corporation or a municipality, “we all have a single goal. We want to get every one of the more than 400,000 people who work in this great industry home to their families at the end of their workday safely.”
OSHA Acting Administrator Jim Frederick, who was appointed in January, said that it is “imperative” that the industry continues to collaborate on efforts to ensure workers remain safe on the job. He alluded to the agency’s efforts to provide guidance and recommendations throughout the pandemic.
“On January 21, President Biden issued an executive order calling for increased protections for workers as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” Frederick said. “Last month, OSHA took the first step toward that goal by issuing updated guidance to help businesses decrease risk and improve worker safety so they can reopen and stay open safely.”
The updated guidance focuses on initiating illness prevention programs based on each individual workplace rather than blanket recommendations. Frederick then told attendees that the agency is in the development process of a national COVID-19 enforcement program. OSHA continues to consider an emergency, temporary national standard as well.
A multilingual outreach campaign also is in the works “to inform workers and their representatives of their rights, placing special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic,” Frederick explained.
He continued, “through our national Alliance, we are already engaging to address transportation-related hazards and many other hazards that your industry faces. You have also helped us share resources on keeping workers safe during the pandemic and helped get the word out to small- and medium-sized businesses about OSHA's onsite consultation program.”
Effective safety leadership start from the C-suite down and demonstrates to workers that their employers are “serious about creating and maintaining safe workplaces and helps attain buy in on safety programs and initiatives at every level of the company.”
Frederick concluded by thanking the waste industry for its continued support, but “there's a lot of work to do to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses in waste and recycling industry. OSHA is committed to continuing our work together to make these jobs safer, so that every one of your workers is able to go home safe and healthy at the end of every shift.”