King County transfer station develops employee-driven safety improvements
Staff in the Department of Natural Resources and Parks’ Solid Waste Division (SWD) have developed a new safety mechanism to add extra security measures for both employees and customers. The idea, developed by Algona transfer station employees and their supervisors, was installed on March 10.
Henry Dotson, an Operations Supervisor who has been with SWD for eight years, explains how everyone is committed to making changes that promote both efficiency and safety, and that the input of employees is essential when making operational changes.
“It is important so that employees know that they are being heard and that we take their input seriously,” he said.
The team deployed a modified 20-yard roll-off container to create a physical barrier between customers and employees, and the edge of the fall hazard area, limiting access to this security risk. As a continuous improvement measure, the employee suggestion is one of several being piloted to add more security for individuals at the transfer station. Initial reactions and opinions have been positive and well received by customers and employees.
“Safety and security for staff and customers is the top priority at the transfer stations and the landfill,” said Tyler Fogelberg, Operations Supervisor and a member of the team that supervises transfer stations, landfills and other SWD work groups. He has been with King County since 2018.
He explains how the team is proud to take on new challenges and recognize opportunities for improvement.
“If something is identified, we will jump into action as a team to handle the situation and ensure we are safe and secure moving forward,” he said.
Anthony Slaughter is a Cedar Hills Land Fill Shop Supervisor and has been with King County since 1991. He has a variety of duties that also include ensuring staff provide service to our customers at the transfer stations and Cedar Hills. The service provided includes repairs to equipment, fabrication to the station facilities and equipment, as well as servicing vehicles and equipment.
With safety, it is important to always be on the lookout for improvement, especially at the top load stations. They were built in the sixties and seventies and are still operating now in modern times.
Anthony explains that employees are the best resource for suggestions that will improve customer service and safety. In acting on employee feedback, it was a win-win for both the stations and staff.
“They spend a great amount of time at the station and observe as well as perform established processes related to their jobs, so they are in the best position to suggest a modification or best practice,” he said.
“Employees like to know they are being heard, and everyone needs to know they are valued, not just by words, but by actions.”
Henry shares how a need for further safety measures at the top load stations is what prompted this improvement.
“The team responded by first identifying what the most serious concerns were and how to adequately address them without creating drastic changes, then we solicited solution feedback,” he said.
This feedback resulted in a dialogue with safety contractors to offer ideas and propose potential solutions. Eventually a prototype model was settled on, discussed with employees, and finally installed.
“The prototype that we are implementing at top load stations are an important step in not only customer safety but employee safety as well,” Henry said. “Through vigorous conversation we have discovered additional safety related benefits.”
Henry adds that the next iteration of the prototype fall protection box design will feature gates that open for commercial haulers and be able to be easily moved for maintenance projects team accessibility.
Tyler shares how management appreciates working to solve these challenges together, building trust in addition to a safer environment. It is important to have direct employee involvement when making operational changes. These employees often have the direct experience needed to suggest safe and effective solutions.
“The employees always have insight that management may not have thought of,” he said. “It is good for moral for all the work groups when they know that management is listening before acting. We have witnessed this time and time again and understand it is an important part of the process.”
Henry also explains how an added benefit of such safety-conscious employees is customers who value the dedication to providing a secure and efficient experience. Working alongside employees in day-to-day operations, he frequently witnesses how they pursue safety and new process implementation.
“I enjoy the satisfaction seen on our customers faces when they realize that our employees take their profession and customer service seriously,” he said.
For more information about the King County transfer stations and the Cedar Hills Land Fill visit www.kingcounty.gov/recycling-transfer.