In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we bring you an important session from WasteExpo: 60-minute Snapshot — Safety. Listen to this discussion that covered workplace safety best practices, tips for preventing and addressing distracted driving, effective safety training strategies, and more.
The panelists were: Kevin Fitzgerald, Director of Safety at Recology, Inc.; Selin Hoboy, VP, EHS & Compliance at GFL Environmental; Shawn Mandel, VP, Safety & Risk at Waste Connections; and Romeo Vellutini, Director of Environmental Health & Safety at Waste Pro USA. The session was moderated by Kirk Sander, Chief of Staff and VP of Safety and Standards, National Waste and Recycling Association.
Here’s a sneak peek into the conversation:
Vellutini started the discussion by noting that in 2023, Waste Pro is “trying to go back to basics. We’re talking with our supervisors, our frontline employees, asking them to put the OSHA heat tool onto their phone. We talk about it year after year, but…the heat index is really vital in Florida.” He said they are also emphasizing the “humanity of the entire situation.” This means talking with drivers to make sure they aren’t pushing new or temporary helpers too hard; to make sure all staff members get acclimated to the heat.
Hoboy noted that GFL is also talking a lot about heat stress, even in colder climates where “people aren’t used to it, and it doesn’t have to be super hot for people to be impacted by heat.” She said that they make popsicles available on hot days, and products with electrolytes, as well as cooler packs.
Mandel agreed that “it’s really about awareness” when it comes to heat-related dangers. “People may think 80 degrees is not that bad, not realizing that the heat index is significantly higher.” Even “things like a well-balanced meal, and getting the proper rest, ensuring they understand the signs and symptoms so they can watch out for themselves and their teammates.”
The conversation shifted to the new work-related challenges in recent years. Mandel observed that, “I think we need to recognize what we’ve gone through over the past two years. There’s a neuroscientist out of Stanford that I’ve been following, and he talks a lot about the human impact that this pandemic has had on society, and people are put in stressful situations…where they can’t deal with it. We need to educate our folks on deescalating conflicts [with the general public] and being aware of the environments they’re in, to be aware of potential [interpersonal] hazards.”
Vellutini mentioned that, “What we’re starting to see in the data is this very significant uptick in shootings and violence affecting collection workers. Some of it is customer-related, but a lot of it isn’t. We have a responsibility to our employees to try to give them the tools to address those situations.” The speakers brainstormed ideas to help address workplace violence; some suggested working with local police departments to offer trainings—personal safety not only out on the routes but also in facilities. Hoboy noted that, “We have emergency preparedness for tornadoes, but we don’t always think about emergency preparedness for an active shooter necessarily,” which means companies need to be doing better.
The speakers went on to talk more about the risks of workplace violence, distracted driving, and more. Listen to the full episode above.