When the average citizen sees a waste collection crew rumbling down the street, they probably don’t realize that they’re witnessing people engaged in the fifth-deadliest occupation in America. Refuse and recycling materials collection is preceded only by roofing, aircraft piloting, fishing, and logging in the ranks of most dangerous occupations.
According to OSHA, 25% of waste management-related accidents are the result of slips and falls when drivers and helpers enter or exit vehicles. Another 25% of accidents occur when trucks and equipment are backing up.
Across the globe, solid waste companies continue to search for ways to reduce risk. Improvements in object detection technology are helping to make the profession safer. The solution, however, will continue to include not just technology but training.
Operator Safety Can Be as Simple as a Good Pair of Shoes
What makes waste management so deadly? According to the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), more than half of injuries and fatalities in solid waste collection are the result of slips and falls and of driving in reverse.
To address the first cause, companies need to train operators to follow practical safety procedures that include:
- Wear shoes with good support
- Always follow the three points of contact rule (maintaining contact with one hand and two feet, or two hands and one foot) when entering or exiting a truck
- Train drivers to always face the cab when entering and exiting the truck
- Use a firm grip on rails and handles
- Look for obstacles on the ground below before exiting
- Make sure hands are free before climbing up or down
Technology + Awareness
To lower the risk of accidents when backing up, companies should train operators to follow better safety procedures, and take some of the burden off drivers by implementing appropriate technology solutions.
New evidence suggests that safety training is more effective when presented visually as opposed to written instructions. Companies should use positive reinforcement to encourage operators to continually look before reversing, adjust mirrors to minimize blind spots, be aware of objects that can obscure their vision (especially when they are turning while reversing), and learn to maintain their focus even when facing distractions by traffic, bystanders, and even signaling from spotters.
Learn from Our Mistakes
Operators are only human. They cannot see around objects or predict what’s coming from out of sight. They are not like owls that can swivel their heads 360 degrees, or like spiders that literally have eyes in the back of their heads. That’s where object detection technology comes in.
As long as humans are driving vehicles, some accidents are unavoidable. We can reduce the incidence of accidents and should continue to strive for zero accidents, while also learning from those that have already occurred.
By implementing technology in and around moving trucks and equipment, and by adopting data intelligence applications that turn information from previous accidents into practical steps to prevent future ones, the solid waste industry can continue its march toward a safer work environment.
Going to WasteExpo? Stop by PRECO booth #1847 to say hi and learn more about our safety technology systems. We're here to help keep your fleet safe!