Our new specialised training programme in Georgia looks to reduce road risk posed by waste collection vehicles

Georgia, News, Occupational Road Safety Management

Waste management services are among the most dangerous jobs on the planet. Their ‘workplace’ includes public roads, neighbourhood streets, parks and shopping districts – all places frequented by pedestrians, children, and every type of road user. Waste collection vehicles are normally large, heavy trucks that can have poor visibility for drivers. They operate at all hours and during all weathers, including when visibility is limited and roads are icy. They stop at roadsides where pedestrians can be obscured by the very dustbins they collect. Bin collections involve workers who stand or walk directly behind the vehicles, and who may ride the backs of moving vehicles exposed to other fast-moving traffic and in danger of falling into busy streets. These factors provide unique risks to both workers and the communities they serve.

When discussing road safety, waste collection vehicles do not usually come to mind. Yet globally, they present a high level of risk to both communities and those that operate them – including risks not posed by other vehicle types. In the UK, for example, fatalities in waste operations are 17 times higher than the average for all industries.[1] A large proportion of these fatalities and injuries are directly linked to vehicles. In Georgia, we have been working with our local partners, Partnership for Road Safety, to raise awareness of these risks and help improve fleet safety in waste operations.

In a project jointly supported by the EBRD Shareholders Special Fund, EASST, the University of Greenwich and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), specialist training in occupational road safety management was conducted in Tbilisi last week targeting managers from waste operations around Georgia, including services from Tbilisi, Rustavi and many regional operations. This training was followed by on-site visits to waste service companies around Georgia, beginning in Tbilisi with a visit to one of the state enterprise TbilService Group facilities in Tbilisi and to the large landfill site they operate outside the city. Further visits and consultations were conducted in Rustavi and two sites in the Kakheti region.

The project has benefited from the expert input of Dr David Thomas Vice Chair of the IOSH Environment and Waste Management Group and the University of Greenwich. David’s work throughout the UK advising local authorities, including the development of a National Health & Safety training programme for waste sector supervisors, has made him a leading authority on health & safety in waste operations. As part of the training in Tbilisi, his specialist knowledge was shared with waste service managers during a one-day occupational road safety training workshop that included an introduction to fleet road safety management by EASST Academy’s Dmitry Sambuk and the launch of our Road Safety at Work: Online Course for Managers in the Georgian language. David also wrote a great day-by-day blog for IOSH on his experience with us in Georgia which you can read here.

The training and site visits were well received by waste operations managers. A Manager from the Tbilisi Waste Management company speaking after the course said:

“It was very helpful to learn so new examples of safe fleet management at work. I really liked the course materials and took few new things with me to try and implement them at my work”.

Gela Kvashilava, founder of Partnership for Road Safety, commented:  

“In Georgia, if we consider the different factors influencing exposure to risk in areas where waste management companies operate – such as the mixture of heavy vehicles and high-speed motorised traffic with vulnerable road users – the need to provide road safety training and assistance is vital to safeguarding the safety of company employees and the company’s reputation.”

All of the participants demonstrated their commitment to safety including, in some areas, the provisions they have in place for employees that meet best international practice. However fleet operations still pose major challenges. With David’s expertise and the support of the EBRD, EASST will be working with managers and supervisors to reduce road risk – identifying steps that can be taken to improve safety at each site and on the public roads. EASST Academy hopes to turn these lessons into a new toolkit for more general dissemination.

We would like to thank the EBRD, the municipalities and waste services in Georgia for their cooperation, and for sharing our aim of reducing road risk in this challenging sector.

[1] UK Health and Safety Executive data 2018/2019