Driving a waste collection vehicle is physically demanding work that requires focus and strength. Chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking related disease, can impact a driver’s ability to perform his or her job. Keeping fit by exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep will help drivers safely and effectively complete their routes.
By Will Flower
Workers in the solid waste and recycling industry have some of the most physically demanding jobs in the U.S. Continually lifting and climbing in and out of trucks, payloaders, compactors, and other heavy equipment strains and stresses the body. Physical conditioning and stamina are basic requirements of our profession. That said, getting in and staying in good physical condition can be a challenge.
Supervisors and safety managers should encourage good physical fitness for everyone in the workplace including drivers and helpers who are on the routes, people who are working at landfill transfer stations and recycling centers, as well as employees inside the office. However, simply telling employees to “get in shape” will not go too far. Employees need to understand the importance of physical conditioning and the benefits associated with being in shape. There are a number of good reasons why fitness matters:
1. Fit employees are less likely to get sick
2. Fit employees have more energy
3. Fit employees are alert employees
4. Fit employees tend to have better attitudes
5. Fit employees are less stressed
6. Fit employees tend to set goals and achieve objectives
A successful fitness program starts with some planning and preparation. Consider these tips:
• Set goals—Employees working individually or together need to set some goals and objectives for fitness.
• Encourage teamwork—Peer pressure can work in positive ways. People are more likely to get going when they are accountable to someone else. Working out with a group or a buddy can lead to successful and long-term fitness.
Use a balanced approach—Fitness programs that focus on building muscle, strengthening the body’s core and developing endurance are essential.
• Motivate—Encouraging some healthy competition among employees usually works given the competitive nature that exists among employees.
In addition to exercise, drivers and helpers must eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water to stay fit. Drivers who are short on time and frequent convenient stores or fast food restaurants may not be making healthy choices. The good news is that many fast food establishments now offer some healthy options on their menus. Workers can also pack their own healthy foods and snacks.
Walk the Talk
Staying in shape requires a combination of eating right and exercise. Promoting good physical conditioning is not just good for employees’ bodies, it is also good for business. Companies that “walk the talk” and really care about people will capture the benefits of a healthy workforce, including fewer injuries, lower insurance premiums and improved teamwork. | WA
Next month’s safety tip will focus safety at recycling facilities.
Will Flower is the Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems. Will has 36 years of experience in the field of solid waste management and environmental protection. He has held operational and executive leadership positions at the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services. Inc. and Green Stream Recycling. Share your safety tip. Submit your suggestions to Will Flower at email@example.com.