Wastecon/ISWA World Congress 2017: Safety gets an assist from technology

Wastecon/ISWA World Congress 2017: Safety gets an assist from technology

Technology can help waste and recycling operations to improve safety, but panelists say culture and hiring play critical roles.

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September 29, 2017
DeAnne Toto
Conferences & Events Municipal / IC&I Safety

It’s no secret that the waste and recycling industry ranks among the most dangerous industries in the United States. While some technology providers are hoping to help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries that occur, they acknowledge that technology alone cannot solve the industry’s safety issues.

Tom Loutzenheiser, vice president of Preco Electronics, Boise, Idaho; Del Lisk, vice president of safety services for Lytx, San Diego; and Gary Mosier, vice president of national accounts for 3rd Eye, Katy, Texas, participated in a panel discussion during the Safety Super Session at Wastecon/ISWA World Congress, a combined conference hosted by the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland, and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Wien, Austria, in Baltimore Sept. 25-27, 2017. David Biderman, SWANA executive director and CEO, moderated the discussion.

He began the discussion by asking the panelists why they felt the waste and recycling industry was among the most dangerous in the U.S. Loutzenheiser said he believed it was because workers are navigating urban environments in some of the biggest trucks available.

“What other industry has their employees conducting their jobs in the flow of traffic?” Lisk asked. He also pointed to the difficult hours and long days employees work, which contribute to fatigue. Add to that the heat that employees can be working in, he said, and you have many factors that contribute a higher degree of risk.

Mosier also said that drivers are working “way too many hours a day” at many companies. He added that while automation would be key to reducing accidents in the industry, it was also necessary to reduce driver hours and hire better drivers.

“Humans have limitations,” Lisk said. “Technology can help to bridge those gaps.”

The panelists agreed that culture plays a significant role in safety, with Mosier saying that culture must start at the top, with buy-in from company and city leaders being essential.

Loutzenheiser said adequate training and support also are needed.

Lisk said there is a “he-man mentality” in the industry that must be addressed, adding that employees taking on things they shouldn’t because of the attitude that there are “no babies in this industry.”

Given tight budgets, it’s important for municipalities and companies to be able to see a return on their investments in technology that is intended to improve safety in the waste and recycling industry. Loutzenheiser said Preco uses usually see a return on their investments within two years.

Lisk cited the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, which saw a 250 percent return on its investment in Lytx’s technology in two years largely in light of a reduction in liability claims.

Mosier reminded attendees they have to use collision avoidance and behavioral analytics technology to benefit from it. “The ROI is dependent on you and your managers.”

In 2018, Wastecon will be in Nashville, Tennessee, in August, while ISWA World Congress will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in October.