Serious injuries can result from overdue maintenance and delayed repairs. Immediately reporting and repairing equipment will ensure the proper functionality of equipment and keep workers safe. Having a responsive program to fix or replace broken items can save workers from injury.
By Will Flower


Communication between drivers and mechanics is important to the safety process to ensure that issues are addressed in a timely manner.
Photos courtesy of Will Flower.

Trucks, heavy machinery, balers and procesing equipment are all common components of the waste and recycling industry. Over time, the moving parts of equipment and vehicles may wear out and could fail, resulting in potential safety hazards. Regular inspections, and the timely repair of broken or worn parts, are important to the overall safety of your operation.

Inspecting and Repairing Collection Vehicles
Drivers are required to conduct a thorough pre-trip and post-trip inspections of their vehicles; these include fluid levels, gauges, lights, safety equipment, hoses, tires and operating apparatus in order to identify non-working or broken items that need attention prior to a truck leaving the yard.

Deficiencies identified during the inspection process must be corrected. Ideally, drivers and mechanics will work together as a team to make repairs and keep trucks safe and operational. Ongoing training and refreshers will help drivers and mechanics understand the importance of their respective roles to keep safe trucks on the route.

Inspecting and Repairing Facilities
Facility inspections can focus on environmental regulations, safety rules, transportation laws, or any combination of compliance and safety issues. Many waste and recycling companies use checklists to aid the inspection process and ensure that important items are not overlooked. A properly trained facility manager, safety manger, supervisor or team of qualified individuals should conduct the inspections. It can also be advantageous to hire a third-party safety expert to review and evaluate a facility with a “fresh set of eyes.


Inspect Your Vehicle…it’s the Law

The Federal Motor Vehicle Carrier Safety Act requires a commercial driver to inspect his or her vehicle at the beginning and end of each day. The driver must also complete a written report on the condition of the vehicle. Both the pre-trip and post-trip inspections are intended to make sure the truck is safe to operate and prevent accidents that are the result of faulty or broken equipment.
Drivers, mechanics, fleet managers, operations managers and supervisors should all be familiar with the laws requiring pre-trip and post-trip
• 49 CFR 396.7 states that if a motor vehicle is in poor condition and likely to breakdown or cause an accident, a driver is forbidden to operate it.
• 49 CFR 396.9 mandates that if a vehicle has been placed out of service, a driver must not drive it until all of the needed repairs are completed.
• 49 CFR 396.11 covers the requirements for post-trip inspections. The law states that every motor carrier shall require all drivers of commercial motor vehicles to inspect their vehicle at the beginning and end of each day and report any defects.
• 49 CFR 396.13 requires the next driver of the vehicle to review the prior driver’s post-trip inspection report, and if the report shows any defect of the vehicle, the driver must sign the report indicating that the problems were fixed. At the end of each day the driver is required to sign a written vehicle inspection report on each vehicle they operated and document their inspection of tires, brakes, steering mechanism, lights, safety devices, windshield and windshield wipers, mirrors, wheels and rims, emergency equipment, etc.


Facility Inspections

Some of the items that can be included on a facility inspection checklist include::
• Historic Issues: A review of prior safety and compliance issues should be reviewed to make certain proper repairs were made to correct the problem.
• Building and Grounds: Look at everything from the fence surrounding the facility, condition of paving around the facility, storm water drainage and site security. Inside the building review the condition of building including floors, stairs, walkways and lighting.
• Fire Safety: Check on fire extinguishers to make sure an adequate number are available and properly charged and labeled. Ensure that the proper type of extinguishes (water, dry chemical, etc.) are available to battle a potential fire. Review the access to firefighting equipment to make sure there are no obstructions. Evaluate fire alarms, sprinklers and smoke detectors to ensure they are functioning. Review escape routes and exits to guarantee that they are clear and unobstructed.
• Permit Conditions: Every permit will have specific permit conditions that need to be reviewed to make certain that the facility is in full compliance. Inspectors must be knowledgeable about a facility’s permits in order to conduct a thorough review.
• Unloading Areas: The tip floor and the active face of a landfill are potentially dangerous areas because people and moving equipment meet. Inspectors should pay particular attention to traffic flow, material flow and general operations to identify conflicts. Inspectors should carefully observe unloading areas over a period of time to determine if safety rules and best practices are being followed to ensure the safety of all workers.
• General Housekeeping: Are things generally neat and orderly?
• Liquid and Chemical Storage: Liquid and chemical storage may have special storage requirements. Storage areas should be checked to make sure they are clean, properly labeled and have adequate containment in the event of a spill. Review hazard communication requirements such as MSDS and postings.
• Spills: Spills should be immediately addressed and not left on the ground to cause a potential slip and fall hazard, fire hazard or environmental threat.
• Proper Signage: Everything from evacuation routes to fire extinguisher locations to emergency telephone numbers should be clearly posted for use in an emergency.
• Lighting: Are lights working and are there enough lights for employees to clearly see and perform their jobs?
• Electricity: Wiring, switches, circuit breakers, junction-boxes, cords and motors should be reviewed to make sure that workers are protected from electrical shock.
• Ladders: Are ladders properly stored and regularly inspected? Are people using the ladders properly trained in ladder care and use?
• Recycling Equipment: Make sure pulleys, sprockets, belts chains and conveyors are properly guarded. Make sure that e-stops or emergency shut off switches are easily accessible and operational.
• Lock Out/Tag Out: Lockout/tagout procedures will save lives. Make sure that the proper lockout/tagout tools such as padlocks are readily available. Also make sure employees are properly trained in lockout/tagout procedures.
• Personal Protective Equipment: Employees must have proper personal protective equipment, or PPE, for their job. Identify what is required such as eye protection, hearing protection, face shields, hard hats and high visibility vests.
The checklist items above are just a few of the potential items that be reviewed at a facility. A thorough list of checklist items for self-inspection can be found in the OSHA Small Business Handbook available on OSHA’s website.


Pre-Trip and Post-Trip Inspections Know What to Look for

A thorough inspection of the vehicle is fairly simple process and will take 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Importantly, the driver or equipment
operator should be properly trained and instructed on the pre-trip and post-trip inspection process including the requirements for paperwork to
document and certify the condition of the vehicle. A checklist will aid the driver in performing his or her pre-trip and post-trip inspections.
The driver should start the inspection process by selecting a good location to conduct the inspection. He or she should seek out an area that is well-lit, on level ground and allows a full view of the truck from all angles. Following good safety procedures, the driver should place the key to the vehicle in his or her pocket to ensure the truck is not started or moved during the inspection process. The driver should also wear Personal Protective
Equipment (PPE), including high visibility safety vest, hard hat, gloves and eye protection. The wheels of the truck should be chocked before crawling under or climbing on a vehicle.
What to look for:
1. Look at the overall truck: Step back and examine the overall truck. Make sure it is not leaning to one side. Also, check all the lights including turn signals, brake lights, headlights, warning lights, clearance lights and safety lights.
2. Look under the vehicle: Look for fluids on the ground, which may indicate a leak.
3. Look around the vehicle: Check the fire extinguisher, safety triangles, tires, windshield, mirrors, etc. Also, make sure that the license plate is secure.
4. Check tools: Make sure brooms, shovels and other tools are properly secured to the truck.
5. Examine the truck: Check tires, wheels, rims and lug nuts. Examine the chassis, springs, brakes, steering, fluid levels, belts and hoses. Look at cables, chains, hooks or forks on the vehicle.
6. Climb into the cab: Check the door, latch, interior lights and condition of the seat. Also, give a second look at the windshield, side and rear windows and mirrors for cracks. If equipped, check cameras and monitors. Check the fuel level. Make sure the registration and insurance certificates are in the vehicle and up-to-date.
7. Start the engine: Listen to the engine for excessive or unusual noise and look for excessive smoke. Make sure gauges and warning devices are working. Check the horn, windshield wipers, and perform a brake test and test the parking brake. Place the vehicle in reverse to make sure the back up alarm is functioning.
8. Check the operating systems: Cycle the compactor and make sure safety devices and warning devices are properly functioning.
9. Overall cleanliness of the truck: Look for an accumulation of dirt or grease on the engine, transmission or undercarriage.

Different companies may have different processes for conducting a pre-trip and post-trip inspection. However, in all cases, the driver must be familiar with the mechanical components and operation of the vehicle. Again, a checklist is a useful tool to aid the driver in conducting an inspection without forgetting anything. Skipping any items during the inspection process will only increase the chances of an accident or breakdown.


Regular facility inspections and fixing safety related issues are a critical management function at solid waste facilities.

The use of a checklist will help inspectors effectively move through the facility in a systematic and timely fashion. However, trained inspectors will look beyond the checklist and have the ability to identify concerns that are not on the checklist. The bottom line is that anything that does not look safe should be identified in the inspection report.
Once the inspection is complete, the results should be reviewed and all safety issues should be corrected in a timely manner. People must be given specific assignments to correct deficiencies and report back when corrections are made.

Done correctly, vehicle inspections and facility inspections identify potential safety problems and result in repairs that are necessary to give employees the assurance that their trucks and equipment are safe for the work ahead. | WA

Will Flower is the Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems (Long Island, NY). Will has 38 years of experience in the area 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 protected].