Waste Collection is Dirty Work … It is Also Dangerous

Working in the waste and refuse industry is dangerous enough, but by implementing a video recording and observation system, it does not have to be.

By Greg Buckner

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, refuse and recyclable materials collection is the fifth most-dangerous job in the U.S. per the data from the 2015 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The latest BLS data shows a rate of 38.8 fatalities per 100,000 full-time employees, up from 35.8 in 2014 and continuing an increase in fatalities that began in 2012.1

While there are many things individuals and companies in the waste and refuse industry can do to cultivate a safer environment for both workers and the public alike, implementing video recording and observation systems on your vehicles can help to improve safety and reduce liability across your fleet.

Backup and Side Cameras

According to the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), one of the biggest safety challenges facing the industry is reducing accidents, fatalities and injuries related to truck backing incidents. The NWRA states that fatalities caused by backing vehicles accounted for nearly 30 percent of industry worker fatalities in 2015.2

With video recording and observation systems, many of those incidents could be avoided by simply providing operators with a view of exactly what is behind the vehicle when its backing up.

When an operator shifts the vehicle into reverse, a video recording and observation system will display a live image of the view behind the vehicle on a monitor inside the cab. This allows the operator to not only see the view behind the vehicle, but also keep an eye on what is happening in front of the vehicle. But rear cameras are not the only option.

Side cameras can also be used in the same way as backup cameras to increase safety. Many systems allow you to see both the side and rear views on a single monitor when a vehicle shifts into reverse if using both side and rear cameras. Side cameras can also be programmed to automatically display on a monitor when a turn signal is engaged, helping to eliminate blind spots on both sides of the vehicle while on the road or on the scene.

Activity Record

With innovations like digital wireless cameras, these cameras can provide the flexibility to be placed anywhere on the vehicle to monitor other areas, like the collected contents. If a vehicle is traveling down the road and the driver can see on a monitor that the contents of the hopper are flying out into the road, they can stop the vehicle and fix the problem before those contents end up flying out of the hopper and onto someone’s car, which is a liability many companies would prefer to avoid.

While eliminating blind spots is a key benefit of implementing a video recording and observation system on waste vehicles, one of the biggest benefits is having a video record of all activity in and around those vehicles. Video recording and observation systems typically record onto a single DVR unit that stores the footage collected by the cameras onto a hard drive or other memory unit such as an SD card.

That video record is crucial to refuting fraudulent claims. For example, if someone claims that one of your trucks damaged a parked car, you can retrieve the video from the alleged timeframe the incident happened and see for yourself if it actually happened.

With no video record to refute such a claim, the likelihood that it can be easily proven wrong is small—unlike the compensation payment your company is going to be paying out. With less compensation payments and insurance claims to deal with, that means more money going back into your bottom line.

Disputing fraudulent claims does not stop at vehicle damage, though that video record can also be helpful in disputing other false customer claims and justifying service charges. For example, when a customer claims their container was not picked up because the operator missed their stop, but the video record proves they did not even set out their containers, a company can easily show off the video footage to back up their claims. Another example would be when a customer is charged a fine for overloading their containers with waste, but they want to fight the charge because they claim they did not overload their containers.

If there is a video record proving that the customer did indeed overload their containers, justifying that service charge is going to be much easier than if a video record was not available to validate that charge.

Fleet Safety and GPS Integration

Preventing fraudulent claims is a crucial benefit of implementing a video recording and observation system, but implementing such a system can also be useful for training operators and improving efficiency for an entire fleet. With a video record, fleet managers can review video to coach their drivers on safer driving habits.

While manually reviewing video can be one approach for helping your operators practice safe driving habits, many video recording and observation systems have technology like G-Force sensors integrated into the system that can measure and record such incidents as excessive acceleration or hard braking.

Many systems are designed to mark video as important or send out automatic alerts through e-mail, text or other methods when such sensors are set off. This allows fleet managers to see these alerts before they would have if they only manually pulled video from time to time, giving them the opportunity to coach drivers on safer driving habits before those habits become a liability issue.

Another feature present in many video recording and observation systems is GPS integration, which allows fleet managers to review route efficiency and further enhance fleet safety.

For example, if a fleet manager is trying to figure out the most efficient routes for their drivers, they can review the GPS tracking the system records and use that information to plot out more efficient routes for their drivers, which, in turn, can result in more efficient operation and savings in fuel costs.

That GPS functionality can also reinforce the ability to disprove false claims. If a customer makes the claim that one of your trucks damaged their parked car, a fleet manager can simply review the GPS coordinates of the vehicle in question at the time frame of the alleged incident. If the GPS data proves the vehicle was not even near that location at the time of the alleged incident and the video evidence backs the data, disproving such a claim is made much easier than if that information was not available.

Fit the Needs of Your Fleet

With all of the benefits implementing a video recording and observation system can provide, operators and fleet managers in the waste and refuse industry should look into the possibility of implementing such a system on their vehicles to improve safety, reduce liability and increase security across an entire fleet.

There are multiple options for video recording and observation systems out there, and multiple options to fit the specific needs of your fleet. Working in the waste and refuse industry is dangerous enough, but by implementing a video recording and observation system, it does not have to be.

Greg Buckner is Communications Coordinator for PRO-VISION® Video Systems (Byron Center, MI). PRO-VISION® engineers, manufactures, supplies and installs rear vision and video recording systems, body-worn cameras and software solutions exclusively for commercial mobile applications. For more information, call (800) 576-1126 or visit www.provisionusa.com.