Skip to main content

Keeping Waste and Recycling Workers Safe When Things Heat Up

Water. Rest. Shade. Every day, regardless of the weather, waste and recycling workers start their trucks and make the rounds. They run constantly, lifting heavy containers and jumping on and off moving vehicles. You’ve got to be in tremendous shape to do this job. That’s why many of us in the business call them “work athletes.” As safety director for the National Waste and Recycling Association, I worry about these workers the way a coach might worry about his team. I know they can’t be expected to deliver peak performance for hours on end when temperatures are soaring. In a heat wave such as the one that’s gripped many states lately, they need to build up endurance, drink plenty of water and take rest breaks, preferably in a cool or shady spot. Logo for NWRA stand down eventWater, rest and shade: That’s the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recipe for keeping workers safe in the heat, and our association, which represents most of the private waste and recycling companies in the nation, has embraced it. Last month, the NWRA launched a weeklong training and awareness campaign to remind our members to pay close attention to worker safety during hot weather, built largely on the Water. Rest. Shade. campaign created for employers by OSHA. After sifting through some industry data, we knew this was an issue we needed to address: There were 1,160 injury and illness cases with lost workdays in 2014 that involved exposure to environmental heat in services-providing industries, which includes waste and recycling. As a safety professional, I realize those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Fatigue brought on by working in the heat can lead to other injuries that may never be identified as heat-related. If we want to bring down injury rates in our industry, we have to address heat. Our members agreed. In terms of participation, our Heat Safety Stand Down was a big success. Not only did the majority of our member companies participate, but we also collaborated with smaller private associations and public waste and recycling groups to reach 70 percent of the entire industry across the country. Work was paused for safety meetings and hydration events, as workers received tips and materials on how to stay safe on the job. The most important message delivered at these events was that worker safety matters, and is a priority for employers – a message we shared with tens of thousands online. This was our first year delivering the heat safety message to our members, and we view this as the beginning of a long-running campaign that helps our industry stay safe and treats our workers as the athletes we know they are. NWRA resources to keep workers safe in the heat are available here. Anthony Hargis is the safety director for the National Waste and Recycling Association.

Comments

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
1 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
It matters not if the truck is automated or not. Most automated trucks are a cab-over-engine design, with the driver sitting right next to the engine. If there is no AC, the heat in the cabs can be brutal. And there is no breeze, since you are moving slowly from house to house, unless there is a cross breeze directly through window, which well not help feet and legs. At 11:30 am, today, when the air temperature was 80F, I was getting temps inside cab of 100F. You would think that one of the countries largest companies would be concerned for their employees and keep the ACs maintained and working. But, none of the AC units in our fleet work. We were promised months ago that they would be fixed. It is a good thing we weren't holding our breath.
Private and public entities have been moving away from rearloaders that require a crew to manually load. You see more and more automated sideloaders for residential service, which is a one person operation by the driver inside a climate controlled (in theory anyway) cab. HOWEVER, many companies still have applications that require a rearloader with crew instead of a sideloader. There are older parts of many Cities that are too narrow for a side loader. In some Cities, new construction is built so close together that it is hard to impossible to service with a side loader. Even if 99% of your operation is automated, don't forget about that 1% that still isn't. They're the ones that are directly exposed to the elements and at risk of heat related issues.
Where I live in South Bend, In. They use automated trucks with an arm that grabs, lifts and dumps the 90 gallon container.The worker stays in the cab and works the controls. I believe they have AC and heat.
When the workforce is expose to heated conditions, the heat could be more hazardous then almost any other hazard on the job. I am Niles Michigan born and raised but have worked construction in the outback of Australia for some 20 years where the temperatures are extreme, up to 125 deg F some days , it will sit on a steady 105-115 deg over 50 - 60days. Companies run courses on dehydration to ensure that plenty of water and breaks out of the sun are foremost on the minds of the workforce. This is always mentioned as a hazard on their Job Safety Analysis. "What we drink today effects our hydration for tomorrow". 6-8 liters a day as a minimum. Heat Stress which leads to Heat Stroke is a very serious business, but can easily be managed with a little intervention.

My husband works for a wadte recyling company but has no heat iin his truck is this legal what can he do for heat instead of quieting his Job Help!!!!!1