Waste connections’ sustainable safety culture


Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

It seems that more and more companies are integrating safety taglines 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 tagline 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, but it also 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 fastestrising 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.

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