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Efforts to improve safety in the refuse and recycling industry are abundant. While recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have continued to rank the industry among the top five most dangerous jobs, awareness efforts, effective training programs, technology and regulations all are designed to give drivers the tools to operate collection trucks more safely.

The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), Washington, is among those organizations making efforts to educate and improve the safety of those in the industry and the customers they serve. NWRA National Safety Director Anthony Hargis answered several questions for Waste Today (WT) to help provide further insights into the many ways in which drivers and their employers and communities can work together to make sure waste and recycling services are provided without compromising the safety of residents or drivers.

Q: What are some of the most common types of accidents that occur on residential routes?

A: Three common types of accidents that occur in residential collection are intersection crashes, rear-end collisions and backing crashes. Intersection crashes are highest in severity due to the presence of other vehicles and people; rear-end collisions are considered high in severity but low in frequency. They are usually caused by driving too fast for conditions, following too close, lack of spatial awareness and distracted driving. Backing crashes are highest in frequency. They mostly involve striking fixed objects (poles, buildings, curbs, awnings, parked/unoccupied vehicles, powerlines, etc.). Backing crashes can be fatal if collections employees are riding on the rear steps of the truck, which is a violation of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) code Z245.1 – 2012.

Q: What are some ways drivers can limit these types of accidents from happening?

A: First and foremost, don’t drive distracted. Distractions include texting, radio, stress, eating and talking in person or on a cellphone.

As well, frequent supervisor/driver trainer ride-along training and driving skills assessments are extremely important. This includes the use of a hazard perception/recognition observation process where drivers identify real or simulated hazards. The supervisor/trainer should have experience training drivers and, in particular, have experience operating the same type of vehicle.

Q: What other technologies or tools that can be included on a vehicle are available to improve driver safety?

A: Telematics is another important technology that helps keep divers safe. Fleet telematics is a way of monitoring the location, movement, status and behavior of a vehicle within a fleet. This is achieved through a combination of a GPS receiver and an electronic GSM (global system for mobile communication) device that is installed in each vehicle, which then communicates with the user and web-based software.

In addition to location data, a fleet telematics solution provides a list of vehicles showing the status of each. You can know when a vehicle starts and shuts down, as well as idling status, location and speed. This information gives you complete, near up-to-the-minute knowledge of your fleet activities in one centralized, web-based interface. All of this information helps increase productivity, reduce labor costs, control fuel costs, improve customer service, increase fleet safety and security, reduce operating expenses and reduce unauthorized vehicle use.

On-board cameras are another helpful tool. These allow visibility of the driver, other vehicles and the workers at rear of truck. It also allows the driver to see the actual environment he or she is working in: weather, road conditions, terrain, behaviors, etc. This helps to reduce costs of collisions, claims, insurance, fuel use, vehicle maintenance and repairs to improve your bottom line; keep company image, social license and operating authority safe with insights that help you reduce risk, improve compliance and exonerate innocent drivers; maximize driver and vehicle performance to increase route and driver efficiency and service customers; and identify unsafe and inefficient driving behaviors in your fleet, coach drivers to improve, reduce risk and increase driver retention.

Q: What types of safety training programs do you recommend for new drivers?

A: I recommend skills-based, performance-based, hands-on, behind-the-wheel trainer-led training. Nothing beats experience. I can tell you how to back a tractor trailer; but, unless you get behind the wheel, you’ll never be able to do it. My first instruction, seconds before being thrown the keys, was being told, “Turn the [steering] wheel left to make it go right. Turn it right to make it go left.”

An interactive computer for hazard recognition/perception can be a good tool for a trainer to use before having the driver get behind the wheel. It lets the trainer know how well the driver pays attention and how he or she processes risk. I am talking about a web-based learning platform leveraging brain science research to give direct, measurable impact on business performance, which combines repetitive microlearning with innovative, company-specific, knowledge on demand to ensure employees are informed and working safely based on company expectation, policy and regulatory compliance.

The learning experience is gamified and delivered in short three-to-five-minute interactive sessions, which makes it fun to use and drives high levels of participation. The software also measures employee knowledge growth and ties it directly to behavior that drives positive safety performance and improves memory retention and safety culture.

Q: How important is automation in keeping collection truck drivers safe? How has the adoption of automated trucks cut down on injuries/fatalities?

A: Automation is the most effective way to prevent physical injuries and illness. From a hierarchy of controls perspective, it eliminates, substitutes and engineering controls the hazard. (See the chart).

Q: How can employers keep safety in the forefront of drivers who have been driving residential collection routes for a long time?

A: There is no silver bullet to ensure long-time employees continue to keep safety in the forefront of their work. Employers must take a layered approach to learning and development. Organizational leaders must possess two essential attributes to build a strong, positive safety culture.

First is a genuine, heartfelt commitment to employee wellbeing. This encompasses a personal value for safety and leaders who hold themselves personally responsible for every workplace injury, illness and fatality.

Second is a vision for safety—a vision for the future. Employees should be capable of describing the safety vision at a significant depth that compels leadership to action.

By holding themselves personally responsible, their heartfelt commitment will drive the actions and financial support to accomplish their vision of safety. Leaders will empower their employees with resources and solutions.

Q: Is there anything occurring on the legislative or regulatory front to help ensure safety/compliance for drivers?

A: Yes. I’ll mention a few. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate requires all nonexempt interstate drivers to use electronic logs. Drivers are required to be in compliance by Dec. 18, 2017.

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a national database for recording drug and alcohol violations. It also records information on positive drug tests and refusals. Carriers are required to search the database annually. This was mandated January 2017 and will require compliance by January 2020.

The Entry-level Driver Training, mandated February 2017, requires all entry-level drivers to meet specific training requirements in order to obtain a commercial drivers’ license (CDL). Compliance will be required in February 2020

Another rule to be aware of is the the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) final rule issued May 11, 2016, that greatly enhances injury and illness data collection from employers. The new rule will require many employers to electronically submit information (OSHA 300, 300A, 301 logs) about workplace injuries and illnesses to the government. OSHA has said it intends to post this data on its public website, www.osha.gov.

In the past few years, OSHA has improved its wide selection of training courses and educational programs to help broaden worker and employer knowledge on the recognition, avoidance and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces.

OSHA also offers training and educational materials that help businesses train their workers and comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Q: NWRA hosted a stand down on backing in January. What is the purpose of this stand down?

A: The week-long training and awareness effort is focused around reducing accidents, fatalities and injuries related to truck backing incidents, which represent a common challenge for the industry.

This stand down provided participating companies with the tools, guidance and support necessary to move the needle on backing incidents.

Last year, a number of participating companies shared meaningful feedback about the impact of the stand down among their employees.

The stand down helped companies increase their focus on safety training by encouraging employee safety sessions during the week on safe backing; conducting a risk assessment and review of backing policies and procedures; and posting stand down information at facilities and on social media sites to make employees aware of this effort. Several participants reported identifying opportunities to update backing camera technology and lighting to improve backing safety for their workers.

“Automation is the most effective way to prevent physical injuries and illness. From a Hierarchy of Controls perspective, it eliminates, substitutes and engineering controls the hazard.” – Anthony Hargis

Daily meetings on sites nationwide provided valuable opportunities for workers to share their concerns, questions and interests in new training and resources.

The NWRA chose to focus on backing because fatalities caused by backing vehicles continue to be a leading cause of preventable deaths for waste and recycling workers, accounting for nearly 30 percent of industry worker fatalities in 2015.

Q: What other initiatives are NWRA undertaking to help the industry be safer on the road?

A: We will host three safety stand downs in 2017. In additon to our “Backing” Stand Down in January, May is our “Heat Illness Prevention” Stand Down. OSHA has partnered with us and will share communications nationally on the topic.

August is our “Back to School” Stand Down. During this stand down, we partner with national organizations that support education, including Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), bus companies and cellular providers, as well as state and local school boards.

Also, as part of NWRA’s mission to move the needle on industry safety, we have launched a series of professional development events taking place throughout the nation. This free, half-day event, brings safety experts to the events. This year’s series focuses on safety culture and the top five things that employers need to know when it comes to safety and compliance.

We also have many safety education sessions at the industry conferences, chapter meetings and other safety organization events that help our members and industry companies improve their safety management systems.

NWRA’s Safety Committee and industry partners, along with NWRA’s advocacy, communications, membership and event planning staff, are developing actions to address the distracted driving epidemic, with cooperation from law enforcement; local, state and federal agencies; and with our customers—the general public.

Anthony Hargis is national safety director of National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), Washington, and can be reached at ahargis@wasterecycling.org.