SWANA’s Chapter Safety Ambassadors knew that they had a problem reaching small- and medium-sized haulers but were unsure how to fix it. Our Ambassadors serve as safety leaders within each of SWANA’s 46 Chapters, but those haulers typically weren’t at Chapter events. Smaller haulers often didn’t have the time or resources to attend, but they were a segment disproportionately suffering injuries and fatalities. So, if the haulers couldn’t come to SWANA events, then SWANA would have to go to them. And so was born SWANA’s innovative and successful Hauler Safety Outreach program.
Hauler Safety Outreach events occur at landfills, transfer stations, MRFs, WTE facilities—any disposal facility where haulers can be found. Safety resources, like SWANA’s 5 to Stay Alive Safety Tips for Waste Collection Employees or Top 10 Backing Best Practices, are handed out at the gate or other convenient location. Not only does this provide haulers with safety information, but it also allows them to learn a little bit more about SWANA and how the Ambassadors can help them with their safety questions and concerns.
Since its creation in late 2017, dozens of Hauler Safety Outreach events have occurred across the United States and Canada, including events at disposal facilities in South Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Ontario. One of the strengths of the program is that it is scalable. Events have ranged from state-wide, coordinated outreach events to simply handing out materials from a scale house at one location.
SWANA’s Arizona Chapter has long had a robust safety program, so it was unsurprising when members in the Grand Canyon state began holding monthly Hauler Safety Outreach events in April 2019. According to Arizona Chapter Safety Ambassador Matt Morales in an August 2019 I Am SWANA News article, “The Hauler Outreach events are an effective means for positively influencing the culture of safety one person at a time.”
One of the unintended effects of these events has been the opportunity to educate members of the public who also come to these locations. “Many community members are shocked to hear that we are the fifth most deadly industry in the country,” writes Matt Morales. “They are even more surprised to learn that many of the accidents and incidents result in fatalities to our own customers.”
The Arizona Chapter has taken its dedication to improve health and safety even further by recently signing an alliance agreement with the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH). Those efforts will be discussed by ADOSH Director Jessie Atencio on October 23, 2019, during WASTECON® 2019 in Phoenix, AZ.
Because of how the Hauler Safety Outreach model works, Chapters can’t do it alone. It takes the cooperation of facilities and sites that understand how important this work is. Hamm Waste Services held its first Hauler Safety Day in Lawrence, KS, along with the SWANA Kansas Chapter on June 17, to coincide with National Garbage Man Day (now known as Waste & Recycling Workers Week).
“Hauler Safety Day was our way of recognizing haulers for all the hard work they do and let them know we’re always thinking of them,” says Charlie Sedlock, vice president of Hamm Waste Services. “Most importantly, it was a venue for highlighting safety best practices, listening to their concerns, and unveiling the latest safety procedures at our Lawrence facility.”
Though providing safety resources is the most important part of Hauler Safety Outreach, it is also an opportunity to recognize the hard work that haulers do and create a sense of community. At the Hamm Sanitary Landfill, haulers were offered hot dogs and hamburgers and could enter a drawing for prizes, like a Yeti cooler. This creates a low-pressure, enjoyable atmosphere for talking about safety with drivers and collection workers.
Hauler Safety Outreach events also give attendees the opportunity to take the SWANA Safety Pledge. The pledge is more than just a commitment to being safe; it is also a declaration of why safety is so important. Keeping one’s self safe and healthy is just one aspect of it. Safety training also helps to protect other workers, customers, and the public.
The online version of the pledge has nearly 2,000 signatures from solid waste professionals across North America and around the world. Nearly 400 attendees at SWANA’s Quad State conference in Asheville, NC, took the pledge together in late August. It is open for anyone to take and the pledge is available in English and Spanish at SWANA.org/SafetyPledge.
New Safety Videos
While Hauler Safety Outreach has proven an excellent way to connect with some of the hardest groups to reach in the industry, it is not the only initiative that SWANA has launched to reach workers. For years, Safety Monday has been a critical industry training resource. It’s become a regular part of many collection teams’ tailgate meetings and safety talks. Now training can be enhanced with SWANA’s safety video series. Each video covers a timely and important topic worth reinforcing to workers both new and seasoned.
The first video premiered exclusively to SWANA members in the August 6 edition of Safety Monday and featured SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman providing tips for working in the heat. Biderman discussed the importance of proper hydration and how to identify the symptoms of heat stress. Other videos have subsequently been released that cover back-to-school safety tips and collection safety for drivers and helpers.
Safety professionals know that workers learn in different ways and messages need to be reinforced. SWANA’s safety videos provide another avenue for education; plus, they’re available to members at any time via MySWANA.org.
There are a wide variety of safety challenges in the solid waste industry and that is why SWANA’s efforts must be equally diverse. From in-person events to digital resources, we must take advantage of whatever means are available to prevent injuries and save lives. With collection work being the fifth deadliest job in the US, and fatal incidents in Canada on the rise, there is much room for improvement. Together, that improvement is possible.