Guest Commentary

The Pied Piper of Safety

A spotlight on an individual who gives so much of his time and energy to the waste and recycling industries’ safety causes.

Teresa Prisbrey

Many of us remember the story of the Pied Piper, that mythical person who simply played a flute to get all the mice to follow him wherever he wanted them to go. Sometimes it doesn’t take a flute. It just takes a person who is so passionate about their cause that they make others want to follow.

I’ve met such a person. His name is David Biderman, whom I respectfully dub the Pied Piper of Safety. Biderman is an extremely active proponent of reducing fatalities, accidents and injuries in the waste industry. He is the General Counsel and Safety Director for National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) and Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC). In conjunction with our Pied Piper, these organizations have spearheaded safety campaigns for the waste industry, including “Slow Down to Get Around”, “Be Safe, Be Proud”, and improving distracted driving awareness.  Additionally, there is a sharing of information, statistics, best practices and anecdotes that I’ve not seen in the waste industry—or anywhere else.

One case in point, I recently attended a safety meeting with people representing almost all of the top 25 solid waste fleets in the U.S. These are companies who usually go toe-to-toe for contracts, and most likely were in an intense competitive battle in one location or another during the meeting. For two hours, that didn’t matter. These fierce competitors left their company labels at the door to achieve a common goal: improving safety for all waste industry employees and the communities they serve.

I watched in awe as Biderman, our Pied Piper, sang his passionate safety song, all of us picking up the beat, none of us caring if a competitor was sitting next to us. We only wanted to make our co-workers and our communities safer.  All suggestions were welcomed, and an open discussion on how we, as people who work in or for the waste industry, can do what we do better. Attendees shared stories of accidents that could have been prevented, how it affected the team and the community when someone was injured, and how nobody recovers from a fatal accident. It affects everyone involved for the rest of their lives.

The honesty and openness of the discussion was heartfelt and inspiring. It is truly refreshing to see these large corporations talking about keeping people safe, at all costs. We all wanted to be a part of the solution, whether it was done through monetary donations, offering time, sharing safety plans, even offering up our sites for future meeting locations.

It’s quite amazing. Can you imagine inviting your biggest competitor to your place of business, and sharing your ideas with him? Can you imagine your biggest competitor opening his doors to you? That’s the thing about our Pied Piper; his compassion for safety is contagious. We’ll happily follow him as he sings his safety song and join in whenever and wherever we can. Thank you David Biderman, for your energy and for keeping us focused on the importance of keeping our coworkers, loved ones, and communities’ safe every single day.

Put a spotlight on the Pied Piper of Safety in each industry. If you know of someone who can turn competitors into brothers-in-arms to make their industry a safer place, celebrate these individuals who give so much of their time and energy to the safety cause.

I’ll end this not with a line from me, but with a quote from Biderman: “I am very fortunate to work for an industry and associations that care passionately about the health and safety of industry employees and third-parties, and hope that we can continue to reduce the waste industry’s fatality and injury rates so all workers go home to their loved ones, healthy (but perhaps in need of a shower), every day.”

Teresa Prisbrey is Marketing Director for Preco Electronics (Boise, ID). She can be reached at (208) 323-7114, e-mail [email protected] or visit