Nov 14, 2019
The waste industry is always striving to improve its safety record but the implementation of site-specific rules is not always easy. Landfills often contain a motley crew of heavy machinery use, haulers, and non-professional customers. They can be tricky to navigate safely without a comprehensive strategy in place.
Industry experts say there are five main components of a comprehensive safety plan that landfill operators should insert into their safety plan. First off, landfill sites should have a prevention program for injury and illness. The goal is to make these landfill sites incident and injury-free. Secondly, these sites need a proper health and safety plan (HASP) to deal with any potential hazards in the site. Third, landfill operators need to put in place standard operating procedures to ensure safety is done right. Fourth, put in place a training program for employees so they can be aware of all these procedures. Lastly, landfill operators need to create a program that tracks and reviews any changes to the work being done on a landfill site. By following these five basic elements, landfill operators can create a thriving safety culture that will endure.
In developing a safety strategy, it's crucial to identify the most common dangers associated with landfills and where these incidents take place. For example, the tipping area in a landfill is considered the zone that poses the biggest risk to safety. Vehicles and equipment share a close proximity and people are often walking in and out of this area. Industry experts suggest hiring a "spotter" to determine who and what has the right-of-way in this area.
It's not just landfill operators and workers that must be properly trained. Customers and residents that visit the area deserve training as well. In many cases, customers are not accustomed to the layout of the landfill operation and there is an increased chance of risk in those situations.
The best way forward is to make safety a top priority in the construction and daily operation of landfill sites. Safety leadership is a top-down approach and the operating company must be focused on the end-goal of being incident and injury-free. It's not enough to simply check a box to meet the bare minimum OSHA requirement. It takes careful planning, training, and strategies. The overall goal is safety for all.
Improved safety is something everyone in the waste sector strives for, but successfully implementing site-specific protocols that generate results is easier said than done. Thanks to the confluence of heavy machinery and a mix of professional hauler and residential customers, landfills can be especially precarious places to navigate.
At Blue Ridge Services, a solid waste consulting firm based in Mariposa, California, Kasem Cornelius, an operations consultant and manager of the company’s safety division, and Jason Todaro, an operations consultant and manager of its landfill division, work with operators to help assess, and ultimately improve, safety practices at landfills.
According to Cornelius and Todaro, a few overarching best practices can help reduce the number of accidents and foster an improved safety culture at waste dump sites.