Investing in Safety – Waste Today


For OC Waste & Recycling (OCWR), which oversees the solid waste disposal needs of 34 cities and 16 unincorporated areas in Orange County, California, to ensure the safety and health of the community, as well as agency employees, is a top priority.

In recent years, the county has focused on using modern management techniques to better regulate the county’s three active landfills: the Olinda Alpha landfill near Brea, the Frank R. Bowerman landfill near Irvine and the Prima Deshecha landfill near San Juan Capistrano.

These efforts resulted in the creation of an online safety management system, called OC Safety, to document and track safety-related details, including audits, training, inspections, near misses. and the reporting of incidents and injuries.

“[OC Safety] was developed in partnership between the OC Waste & Recycling agency and the county IT department, ”said Jordan Young, OCWR Safety Culture Manager. “What it does is it allows us to easily and efficiently track all the details we need regarding these inspections, audits and incidents, and to do so in a consistent manner that ensures transparency and accountability. responsibility.”

The first OC Safety prototype was originally developed in-house by landfill staff with prior technical and safety knowledge, Young explains. Once the agency caught wind of the rudimentary program and recognized the value of a digital security management system, it quickly began investing in developing a more formal program.

“We have started to develop [the program] in 2016 ”, explains Tom Koutroulis, Director of OCWR. “As it developed, we wanted to incorporate a lot of safety-related information to provide analysis of how we run operations not only for our employees, but also with regard to the public and contractors who were entering.

“OC Safety is truly a tool for our employees to take advantage of [to improve] safety on construction sites. Our industry is ranked in the sixth [most dangerous] industries, therefore, knowing that… we see this as a step in the right direction for us to provide a safer working environment for our employees and those who frequent the landfill.


With responsibility for handling over 4 million tonnes of solid waste from over 3 million residents and businesses across the county, OCWR’s three landfills are among the largest in the state. Given the scale of the county’s operations, Young says keeping track of records and documentation before OC Safety was developed was a challenge.

“Anyone in the waste industry can understand that when you have more than one landfill or more than one facility, you have multiple employees working in different locations,” he says. “Before we had the web-based system, we looked at paper documents and had to make sure they were reviewed and kept on track.

“OC Safety has taken us from the days of paperwork and postal mail and days and days from submitting a form to registering or verifying all of these things that happen instantly. “

Now, landfill supervisors can file inspection reports through a phone or tablet app. In the system, Young says users can document the location, report any findings, and include an image. These details are then uploaded directly into the electronic system, which can be routed to other required reviewers to incorporate comments or changes.

Depending on the type of incident report or form created, the system will notify the appropriate personnel through a series of distribution lists.

“The system will automatically notify people who need to be notified, whether they are a landfill superintendent, a landfill manager or the safety officer,” Young explains. “It’s a big advantage for the agency when it comes to completing inspections. As soon as the tablet plugs in or is plugged back into the office, the inspection results are distributed to the person responsible for tracking issues.

“OC Safety has taken us from the days of paperwork and postal mail and days and days from submitting a form to registering or verifying all of these things that happen instantly. – Jordan Young, Head of Safety Culture, OCWR

Supervisors can also run reports and trend analyzes rather than having to manually enter data into spreadsheets, which has simplified the process of identifying areas for improvement.

“When we look at incidents and accidents that occur on a case-by-case basis, we always identify the root cause in order to implement effective corrective actions,” Young explains. “But when you take a step back and look at the data or trend analysis, you can learn more about what’s going on in the organization and which areas of our security program need more attention. “

This practice has been shown to be particularly effective in near misses, where trend analysis gives supervisors the ability to identify hazards and find solutions.

“OC Safety gives us a tool to identify issues and track who conducted the investigation, what solutions were identified, and the status of implementation of those solutions,” Young explains. “And before anything can be closed, it has to be checked on the pitch. So whether it is the safety representative or a supervisor, someone goes out into the field and documents what has actually been implemented.


Since its launch in 2020, OC Safety has been adopted by half of the county agencies and is expected to be used in all 22 of them later this year. To facilitate large-scale deployment, the OCWR has developed a class for supervisors to help them move from paper reports to using the web platform.

“Every supervisor in the field takes a course called Supervisor Safety Training. So basically every time someone is promoted to a new supervisory position, we walk them through traditional safety training to help them understand and become familiar with their new safety roles and responsibilities ” Young explains. “We also cover documentation and record keeping practices, and this is where we give them an introduction to the system, how it works and how to use it.”

In addition, the agency uses a process in which it will pair a new employee with a more experienced employee to practice performing facility safety inspections.

By automating the documentation of OCWR safety-related inspections, Koutroulis says the agency has seen a decrease in incidents. However, he notes that the most important area of ​​improvement has been in the overall safety culture.

“Our industry is run by its employees,” he says. “You can have the best equipment; you can have a state-of-the-art facility, but if you don’t have the right mindset and the right people in place, you’re going to be faced with these challenges. So what we’ve tried to do is identify our opportunities with our team so that they can use these tools to further improve our safety culture and demonstrate that we care enough about investing in that.

“Their use and the effort they put into monitoring the process and implementing the near miss program demonstrates their level of care and commitment. For us, it’s sort of a way of identifying the benefit of having this level of engagement and empowering your employees to take control and take ownership of their own security.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of Waste Today. The author is the Associate Editor of Waste Today and can be contacted at [email protected]


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