THIS IS THE time of year—when we celebrate the holidays—that I worry most about safety. I worry that all the bustle, planning, and stress it creates can be distractions from safety protocols on the job. It would be terribly ironic for a family to suffer a loss because a worker was distracted by thoughts of making his family happy.
This past fall, a safety-focused partnership was formed between the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), and the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA). The three organizations signed an Alliance agreement to give information, guidance, and resources to SWANA and NWRA members aimed at protecting the health and safety of solid waste industry workers.
In announcing the two-year agreement, SWANA CEO and Executive Director David Biderman said, “SWANA will work closely with NWRA and OSHA to provide timely and useful safety information and resources to the entire industry. It doesn’t matter whether a solid waste employee is in the public or private sector; our goal is to protect all solid waste workers. Our network of 42 state chapters in the US provides a nationwide platform for distributing safety information developed under this Alliance.”
The Alliance agreement commits the associations and OSHA to collaborate in safety training and education efforts with a focus on backovers and distracted driving; slips, trips, and falls; needle stick injuries; heat and cold stress; and musculoskeletal injuries.
It is invaluable to have the influence and resources of SWANA, NWRA, and OSHA so heavily involved in improving and promoting safety practices.
I also believe we need to have just as passionate a commitment to safety from management and supervisors. It’s been my experience that when “the boss” does not tolerate any lapses in safety, when you know there will be severe consequences in not following safety protocols, that’s when you don’t really think about a “safety culture” because safe practices are embedded as part of your day-to-day “work culture.”
I celebrate the massive efforts being put forth by SWANA, NWRA, and OSHA. But I will rejoice when the solid waste industry is no longer in the top five of the most dangerous industries in the country, and their guidance is needed only for continued success.