There’s a phrase that was extremely repetitive during the past holiday season. It wasn’t the exact same phrase every time. There were subtle (and some not so subtle) variations of “Be safe!” The Santiago family visited a number of places during the Christmas and New Year season, and whenever we left a place there was always the sentiment, “Be safe!” It was either that or “Be careful” or “Get home safely” or “Safety first!” or as one of my mentors is fond of saying, “Drive fast, take chances!” It’s his default for “Be safe.”
I’m thankful to be able to say that we got through the end of the year unscathed.
Then there was this troubling headline on a SWANA news release: “New Year Begins with Several Industry Related Deaths”
Seven solid waste-related fatalities occurred in Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Virginia, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Six of the seven incidents involved solid waste collection. They happened with large solid waste companies, regional haulers, and municipal sanitation departments.
SWANA’s executive director and CEO David Biderman said, “I am very disappointed by the number of fatal incidents in the first ten days of 2018; each of them is a tragedy and serves as a reminder that the entire industry needs to improve its safety culture. We urge companies and local governments to not only take the time to educate supervisors and employees, but also commit to making safety a workplace priority. Nothing we do at SWANA is more important.”
Safety will be a major topic at both SWANApalooza in Denver, CO, this March, and at WASTECON in August in Nashville, TN, where SWANA’s 6th Annual Safety Summit will take place.
Not long after seeing the SWANA headline, there was this NBC News headline: “Number of OSHA Workplace Safety Inspectors Declines Under Trump”
According to the report, “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration lost 40 inspectors through attrition and made no new hires to fill the vacancies as of Oct. 2, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The departing inspectors made up 4 percent of the OSHA’s total federal inspection force, which fell below 1,000 by early October.”
It goes on to say, “OSHA is one of the many federal agencies where hiring has stalled in Trump’s first year and mounting vacancies remain unfilled. Some worker advocates and former officials worry that staffing delays are undermining the work of a small but critical institution responsible for protecting the health and safety of American workers.”
Who is to say if the two headlines are related? But the fact remains that based on data from 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified solid waste collection as the fifth deadliest job in the US.
Just as there are as many ways to tell someone to “Be safe,” there are many resources that can teach everyone good solid safety practices.
Please visit SWANA’s Safety Program at swana.org/safety.