Every day across North America, there are new employees who are starting new jobs as waste collectors or laborers at landfills, transfer stations, and recycling centers. Most of these workers are unaware that the waste and recycling industry is one of the 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Proper safety training is necessary for these new employees before they head into the field.
By Will Flower

New wage earners are hired to fill several positions in the waste and recycling business. They may work on vehicles as part of a waste collection crew. Others may sort recyclables at a material recovery facility. Still others may direct traffic at a transfer station. Regardless of the job, safety training for all employees is paramount—especially for new employees.

Experienced workers can coach, mentor and share safety tips with new workers.

Every employee is expected to be safe. However, new workers may not understand the risks associated with the tools, equipment, and work environment. A formal orientation program for new employees can be helpful in explaining the organization’s goals,
objectives, and commitment to safety. The orientation should include a review of work rules and safety protocol for the tasks associated with specific jobs. The orientation session is also a good time to review the availability and the use of personnel protective equipment (PPE). New workers need to be aware that they will be active in all types of weather conditions.
Additionally, employees may use a variety of tools and heavy equipment to handle waste and recyclables. Therefore, it is
important that every employee be alert to their surroundings and have proper training to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries.

Follow Safety Protocols
Employees are responsible for their own safety plus the safety of those who are around them. Because safety is a job requirement, every worker should know and follow safety protocols. Some of the basic safety rules to be reviewed during the orientation process include:
• The proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
• Never stand behind or in front of vehicles or equipment that are operating.
• Proper techniques for lifting and reaching.
• Do not stand on running boards or other vehicle parts outside of the cab.
• How to report an unsafe conditions or behavior.

New drivers should be reminded that they must obey traffic regulations and abide by the organization’s specific safety rules for operating a waste collection vehicle.

Every new employee needs to be fully trained for their position prior to being sent into the field.

Before Entering the Field
Managers, supervisors, and safety professionals have a responsibility to ensure that every new employee receives the proper
training and the necessary protective equipment before being sent out into the field. Ongoing communication and training about safety are important when building a culture of safety within the organization. When training new employees, supervisors and safety professionals should:
• Explain the importance of doing the task properly.
• Provide step-by-step instruction on how to perform the task.
• Review the personal protective equipment (PPE) that must be worn.
• Show how specific tasks should be performed.
• Discuss potential risks and threats to safety.
• Give new employees an opportunity to perform the task under watchful supervision
• Allow the new workers to ask questions.

Supervisors should routinely observe and review work to correct any safety issues before an accident happens. Observations and coaching sessions can be done in the field, during small group safety meetings, or at large group meetings.
It is important for new employees to see that safety is top-of-mind throughout the entire organization. Senior managers, department heads, and the owners/executives of companies must set the example for safety and demonstrate that the organization values safety. Leaders also have a responsibility to ensure the proper resources are allocated for safety training.

Regardless of the job, safety training for all employees is paramount—especially for new employees.

A Culture of Safety
A strong culture of safety and ongoing training is a key component of safe operations. Employees should never take shortcuts in work operations, or neglect to use PPE because they have become lax in their job. Both new and experienced workers need to be reminded that a moment of distraction can result in serious injury to themselves or others.

Finally, employers must make certain that all employees understand safety protocols especially with diverse workforces that could include employees who may not use English as their primary language. Site managers and safety professionals must provide training in a language and format that workers can understand. There are several ways to ensure that safety messages are communicated in a way that benefits all employees:
• Use Available Resources—OSHA has web-based tools to help employers communicate with bilingual workers who may use
foreign languages as their primary language.
• Make It Visual—When providing safety training to workers who do not use English as their primary language, instructors can use pictures, videos, and demonstrations to aid in communicating safety protocol.
• Use a Translator—A translator can aid in communicating safety information in a language workers can understand. A translator can be either someone from outside of your organization, or a bilingual employee. Always give your translator extra training so that he or she is able to properly and clearly communicate the safety messages to others.

From the very first day on the job, every employee should understand the importance of safety within the organization. Moreover, with ongoing training and coaching, new workers, as well as, experienced workers, can keep safety at their #1 priority every single day. | WA

Will Flower is the Senior Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems (Long Island, NY).