The concept of fleet owners and waste collectors working together more safely is part of a larger multi-national road traffic safety project. Collaboration between fleet owners, managers, supervisors and employee.

Safety and health issues in the waste collection industry have been addressed many times before. Government organizations from the CDC to OSHA have deemed refuse collection a high-risk job. Non-fatal incidents such as slips, falls and trips also occur regularly, causing cuts, lacerations or worse. In more serious cases, passing cars, other work vehicles or even the refuse truck can cause a fatal incident.

But most non-fatal and fatal incidents can and should be prevented. Working together, fleet owners and waste collectors can limit the risk of operating recycling and waste trucks. Clear communication and strict implementation of safety measures, in addition to safety equipment and technology, is essential for reducing risk. Investing in safety can even yield financial benefits.

Is Risk Just Part of the Job?

Everyone agrees safety is important, yet injuries are still frequent. According to the CDC, 36 percent of vehicle related waste collector deaths occurred when the worker slipped or fell from a refuse collection vehicle, was struck or run over by another vehicle, or fell and was struck or run over by the refuse collection vehicle. Twenty percent of these vehicle-related fatalities occurred when the refuse collection truck was reversing or backing up.

It is true that a certain amount of risk is necessary to get the job done but should safety be the main priority for every company? Yes, fleet owners should create strict safety guidelines, and enforce truck operators to follow designated procedures in every situation. The message of “safety first,” needs to be communicated clearly, regularly and should become part of the company policy and mantra.

How to Create a Culture of Safety

Creating a culture where safety is a priority is essential. Both management and employees must understand safety is a priority. While work must be done efficiently, an employee’s welfare and safety is always the most important factor in any company environment.

Collaborating on a solution is essential to creating and fostering safety culture within your fleet. Great ideas for risk reduction and injury prevention often come from employees because they are the ones faced with the everyday challenges of the job. The safety planning process should include waste and refuse collectors throughout the entire process. Fleet managers and truck operators must work together to keep the team safe.

Creating and/or updating a safety plan for your fleet doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Focus first on preventing the most common and most costly injury types, such as back, shoulder or arm/handover-exertions or strains. The cause of these injuries are most often getting struck by or against objects, motor-vehicle crashes, and slips, trips or falls.

In the end, creating a culture of safety is a smart company investment. Taking measures to reduce risk will directly decrease employee injuries, the amount you pay in disability benefits, and the chance of a costly lawsuit. Creating a culture around safety will also increase employee morale, loyalty and work efficiency.

Safety Measures Proven to Reduce Risk

Increase Your Visibility

Waste and sanitation vehicle operators face many challenges as they navigate alleys, busy streets and tight turns. Vehicle blind zones hinder the safety of drivers and vulnerable road users around the vehicle including pedestrians and cyclists. Operators who have the visual information they need can more safely reverse, park and maneuver large sanitation vehicles. High-tech cameras and monitors can provide rear or side views for greater all-around visibility.

Investing in a predictive pedestrian collision avoidance system can prevent serious incidents that result in large payouts. It works when a sensor-based camera system triggers a warning to the driver when an object or person is on a direct collision course with the truck. Both visual and audible signals effectively warn the driver of nearby pedestrians and bicyclists in time to stop the truck before incident. If cost is a limitation, backup camera systems can help drivers quickly assess conditions to the rear and side in reverse. However, multi-camera systems featuring front and side facing sensors operating through forward operation and turns, offer predictive sensing, which reduces risk more significantly.

Be Seen

Each year, waste collectors are injured and killed when hit by other drivers who do not see them. Employees can further reduce this risk by ensuring they are seen. Employees should wear high visibility vests, provided by fleet owners, when they exit their truck in the company yard, at customer docks and on the side of the road. In addition to the neon and reflective jackets, truck operators are encouraged to make eye contact with other drivers to confirm they have been spotted.

Wear the Right Gear

Refuse and waste collectors should be required to wear proper gear, including sturdy steel-toed shoes or boots. Proper footwear with good traction will protect against inclement weather and prevent slips and falls that can result in serious injuries.

Prevent Rollaways

Rollaway trucks have too often fatally injured truck operators. Any and every time an employee exits the vehicle, the parking brake must be set. Wheel chocks should always be used. To ensure these features are working properly, a vehicle pre-departure inspection should be completed before every drive. If these safety measures fail, never try to stop a runaway vehicle from the outside. Contact emergency services immediately.

Know Your Limits

Refuse trucks are a major investment, so oftentimes old or wearing vehicles are not replaced. The lifespan of these trucks is finite, and therefore should not be extended for any reason. Maintaining refuse trucks that need repairs and replacing vehicles when needed will decrease risk of an unsuspected accident and improve the efficiency of fleet vehicles.

Report Safety Issues

To quickly fix dangerous working conditions, both fleet owners and truck operators need to prioritize safety. When a situation becomes hazardous, employees should report the problem to their supervisor immediately. It is the responsibility of the fleet manager to respond to worker requests as soon as possible, and remove the refuse collectors from the unsafe environment.

Join the Vision Zero Movement

The concept of fleet owners and waste collectors working together more safely is part of a larger multi-national road traffic safety project. The goal of Vision Zero is to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries. Collaboration between fleet owners, managers, and supervisors, and employees can drastically improve highway safety and save lives. | WA

 Amy Ahn-You is the Marketing and Web Manager at Rosco Vision Systems (Queens, NY), and proud to be leading Rosco’s commitment to New York City’s Vision Zero project. She has an AS in Architectural Technology and a BBA in Marketing Management. Amy is also passionate about cooking and enjoys familiar and not-so-familiar foods from around the world. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or on twitter at @RoscoVision.