ISRI’s 2021 Summer Board of Directors and Committee Meetings began Tuesday, July 13, and ended Friday, July 16. Here are some highlights from the Safe Operations Committee on Wednesday, July 14.

Imagine containing a wind-driven fire in a big pile of ferrous metal, near other piles, buildings, and a river. Eric Albert, president of Albert Bros. Recycling Inc. in Waterbury, Conn., experienced that Feb. 25. His company’s response was textbook: site safety plan in place; a facility layout known by emergency first responders; and an environmental services contractor helping with cleanup. But it was Albert’s crisis communication that sets the story apart.

After consultations with senior management, in an onsite briefing and later news release, he thanked local and state officials who responded to the fire; pledged cooperation in the fire investigation; stated safety and environmental stewardship are core company values; and noted that the fire started in a pile containing unsorted materials received from municipalities. “From a messaging standpoint, it worked out as well as possible,” Albert says. “It won’t always work out this way, but if you’re not engaged in the game you can be sure your voice won’t be heard.”

He adds total cooperation with the Waterbury police and fire departments and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was critical. “We were there to be of any assistance needed, including helping by breaking the piles down with our payloader and crane so the fire department could be more accurate and strategic in their firefighting,” he says. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

At the July 14 Safe Operations Committee meeting, members benefited from that example, and other worker, vehicle, and facility safety notes from ISRI staff, as well as information on COVID-19, and possible changes to government regulations and inspections under the Biden administration.

Environmental Update

David Wagger Ph.D., ISRI’s chief scientist and director of environmental management, updated members who recycle vehicles on the pending expiration of the National Mercury Switch Recovery Program. He points out members who handle paper, plastics, and electronics may face more scrutiny from the Environmental Protection Association (EPA) on the group of chemicals known as PFAS. He mentioned that ISRI belongs to an industry coalition that may become involved in legal action seeking to overturn the 2021 Multi-Sector General Permit.

Safety Updates

Ryan Nolte, ISRI’s director of safety outreach, briefed the committee on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections. OSHA will be looking for lead, powered industrial trucks, and combustible dust, he says. ISRI is sponsoring an Aug. 4 webinar by Mark Lies of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, What to Expect from OSHA 2021 and Beyond, where OSHA enforcement initiatives, Biden administration priorities, COVID-19 guidance, and other topics will be discussed, in advance of OSHA Safe + Sound Week, which is Aug. 9-15. Nolte also advises that ISRI’s partner in preparing Safety Data Sheets will be leaving; the association is seeking a new partner for SDS updates.

After a positive recap of the recent ISRI Safety and Environmental Council Conference, the committee learned that ISRI’s COVID-19 response plan template will be updated to reflect the latest OSHA guidance. ISRI is working to provide more data about serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) in 2020 and 2021, and working on an updated SIF prevention strategy.

Commodor Hall, ISRI’s senior director of safety, mentioned two transportation safety events sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance: Operation Safe Driver Week, July 11-17, and Brake Safety Week, Aug. 22-28. He reminds recyclers with fleet operations to take advantage of the dates to check in service vehicles for potential safety issues. “Talk to your drivers one-on-one about doing pre-trip inspections,” he states. “I would highly recommend that you consider having brake inspection lane with your mechanics, and making sure your mechanics are certified to inspect and repair brakes.”

COSE Update

Dan Becker, Circle of Safety Excellence™ (COSE) steering committee chair and ISRI director-at-large, provided an update on membership. Currently, COSE stands just under 100 members, representing over 30,000 workers. COSE will host webinars this fall on Environmental Justice and crisis management, with more information to be provided.

ISRI members can register for the association’s Monthly Health & Safety Forum here.

Image courtesy of ISRI.


Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; and marketing communications.