Safety Case Study

Waste Connections’ Sustainable Safety Culture

Waste Connections is committed to constantly improving efficiency and safety measures. Installing cutting-edge object detection systems on each of their trucks not only sets a safety standard, but it also improves safety for the drivers, pedestrians and property owners in each of the communities they serve.

It seems that more and more companies are integrating safety tag lines into their mission and vision statements. But what do slogans like “Safety First!” really mean? Is it little things like buying your employees reflective vests and first aid kits, or does it require more effort to really ensure human safety and create a corporate culture of putting safety first?

In the solid waste collection field, one innovative company has moved beyond the tag line and have created a culture of substantial, measurable improvements in safety that have reduced their trucks’ struck-by accidents. This effort not only sends a powerful message to employees about the importance of protecting life and property, it creates an ongoing corporate structure that values awareness and safety.

A Top 10 Company

Waste Connections, a solid waste collection service provider, serves more than 2 million customers across 29 states, and is growing every day. Their collection trucks move through the streets every week surrounded by smaller vehicles, children riding bikes or walking, and a variety of obstacles. Waste collection trucks are large, and a split second is all it takes for one person, vehicle or object to move into their blind zone. Even with mirrors and external backup-beepers, blind zone/backing accidents account for 28 percent of struck-by accidents in the waste collection industry according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report. (CDC NIOSH)

Waste Connections takes the same aggressive approach to safety measures as they do in business—a vision that has catapulted this publicly held company into the top 10 waste companies in the U.S. in just 10 years. Smart growth strategies make this one of the fastest-rising companies in their field. The management team is community-minded and serious about improving safety for employees and the community. Their long-term vision for the company’s attitude toward safety is about more than the bottom line: it’s about innovation and sustainable safety solutions for their employees and the communities they serve.

Waste Connections decided that reducing blind spot accidents, the most common problem in refuse vehicle accidents according to the CDC, would be their first priority. The company’s Corporate Fleet Sourcing Manager, James Seifert, says, “We believed that supplementing our extensive safety and training programs with the technologies available today would help our drivers in their goal towards zero accidents.”

An Aggressive Approach to Safety

Aggressive towards safety and thorough in research, Waste Connections took the time to perform an extensive evaluation of available technologies. This included a two-year research project on comparing cameras, various object detection technologies and trying a combination of multiple safety devices together to determine what provided the most sustainable approach for their operators and communities.

The requirements for Waste Connections included detecting objects and people up to 20’ from the sensors installed, warning the driver in the cab about the blind spot dangers, and integrating cameras that were already installed in the vehicle. Additionally, the system had to be rugged enough to effectively work in the extreme weather and grimy conditions waste collections work in every day.

They already had cameras to provide an additional view behind the vehicle that they couldn’t get with standard mirrors. However, like mirrors, they were passive. They didn’t give a warning sound when someone was in the blind zone, making them ineffective unless the driver was looking at the monitor. So, Waste Connections decided to look at active solutions that would enhance their current training programs and integrate their existing systems.

While the ultrasonic systems on the market worked fine on an SUV, the beam was only 10’ back, not as wide as the pulsed radar, and would send false alarms in poor weather or when “garbage juice” would get into the sensor. The concern was the alarms would be ignored, making the system ineffective. As a result, Waste Connections looked toward a system that was designed for heavy equipment—PreView Radar Systems (Boise, ID). Seifert says, “We had very specific requirements in the technology that we chose, and PreView Radar Systems integrated approach exceeded our expectations.”

Implementing a Safety System

PreView Radar’s object detection systems use sensors encased in a rugged epoxy that function in any weather condition, including fog, snow or heavy rain. The radar doesn’t require light, and works even when caked with mud and debris common with waste collection vehicles. The PreView for Waste system was designed specifically to meet the unique needs of the waste industry, including ensuring the radar beams covered the entire blind spot of the vehicle while still allowing the vehicle to maneuver in busy neighborhoods and parking lots. PreView Radar’s maker, Preco Electronics, Inc., has been an industry leader in heavy equipment safety solutions since 1947.

Most industrial vehicles use passive warning systems such as mirrors or monitors. They rely on the driver seeing an obstruction in time to stop, but in a neighborhood work environment, small children on scooters or tricycles can get behind a large vehicle and into harm’s way in less time than it takes the driver to check all his mirrors. Radar technology provides active alerts with both visual and audio warnings for the vehicle driver.

PreView’s alert system works like a tap on the driver’s shoulder, giving an audible warning that the driver should check again before proceeding. It’s a “second pair of eyes” in the back of the truck, actively seeking for quick-moving people and vehicles. It’s proven to be effective in warning drivers of both moving and stationary objects. PreView Radar’s National Sales Manager for Waste, Mark Regan, says, “PreView Radar customers have been reporting a reduction in blind-spot accidents of more than 75 percent after they install the system.”

Once Waste Connections decided to implement PreView Radar on their trucks, they took the next step and have made it a mandatory safety tool on all new waste collection vehicles. Now as their vehicles join the fleet on the streets, they have an effective system already in place to guard the people and property in each community they serve.

For years, Waste Connections has been committed to a corporate culture of constantly improving efficiency and safety measures. Installing cutting-edge object detection systems on each of their trucks sets the safety standard for the entire industry, and improves safety for the drivers, pedestrians, and property owners in each of the communities served by Waste Connections, because every life is important.

Preco Electronics, Inc. is a privately owned manufacturing company headquartered in Boise, ID. Since 1947 Preco has designed, manufactured, and distributed safety solutions geared toward heavy equipment. Their current focus is reducing blind spot accidents with the use of their own patented pulsed radar system, PreView Radar. For more information, contact Teresa Prisbrey, Director of Marketing, at (866) 977-7326 or via e-mail at [email protected].

Waste Connections is an integrated solid waste services company that provides solid waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services in mostly secondary markets in the Western and Southern U.S. The company serves more than 2 million residential, commercial and industrial customers across 29 states. They also provide intermodal services for the movement of solid waste and cargo containers in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, contact James Seifert, Corporate Fleet Sourcing Manager, at (916) 608-8264.