A good safety record by a scrap tire processor brings lower insurance premiums and a better reputation for the industry, according to several participants in the business.
``A fire in our industry is on CNN and in USA Today in five minutes,'' said Jerry Swensen, president of Auburndale Recycling Center Inc., one of the speakers at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries' 2007 Tire Recycling Business Summit, held in Rosemont, Ill., Sept. 16-18. ``Nobody cares about how many millions of tires we recycle or what a good job we do recycling. But if one of us has a fire, everyone in the country knows about it immediately.''
Recycling as a whole has its work cut out for it in the issue of safety, said John Gilstrap, ISRI director of safety. Gilstrap quoted Labor Department statistics that showed recycling workers and garbage collectors, taken together as a group, have the fifth-highest job-related fatality rate of any occupation.
``Explosives manufacturers, firefighters and petrochemical workers are not on the list, but we are,'' said Gilstrap, himself a former firefighter. ``A high priority at ISRI is the whole issue of safety. Not just employee safety but safety at large. That means preventing fires, preventing accidents, preventing employee injury, keeping our trucks safely on the road and selling products that are safe for consumers. Our rallying cry is, `Safely or not at all.' ''
To help its members in the field of safety, ISRI offers them a wide range of outreach programs, publications and materials, according to Gilstrap. The organization offers members a ``Monthly Safety Meeting,'' a 45-minute online training session to keep management and workers up to date on safety procedures.
Blueprint for safety
The most successful programs, however, are the ``ISRI Safety Blueprint'' and the ``OSHA 10-Hour Training Session,'' Gilstrap said. The ISRI Safety Blueprint is a four-hour meeting between ISRI safety personnel and a recycling company's management.
``It's an opportunity for us to sit down with your management at your facility,'' he said. ``It gives you a blueprint to take your company from where you are safetywise to where you want to be.''
The two-day OSHA training session brings recycling companies up to date on relevant Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and stresses safety in a scrap recycling environment, according to Gilstrap. The session includes an interactive compact disc on how safety works on the employee level. ``You schedule the appointment; we show up,'' he said.
Swensen, who will take over later this year as president of the ISRI Scrap Tire Chapter, endorsed the ISRI safety programs. ``I've used them in my workplace, and they're worth it,'' he said.
The crumb rubber market is a buyer's market right now, which is advantageous as far as insurance premiums go, according to Nicole Croteau, team leader for RecycleGuard/Willis Programs in Portsmouth, N.H.
``All of a sudden, a lot of competitors will want to solicit for your insurance account,'' she said. ``There will be two, three, four or five carriers suddenly interested in your business.''
But insurance markets are cyclical, Croteau said. It's difficult to say what changes a market, but acts of God may leave a business with only one carrier-if that many-willing to cover it.
RecycleGuard, the program Croteau represents, is a comprehensive program created specifically to address the insurance and risk management needs of the recycling industry. It was established in 1996, and four years later ISRI selected it as its exclusive sponsored property/casualty insurance program, although RecycleGuard coverage is available to both ISRI members and nonmembers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
RecycleGuard rates policies according to exposure as demonstrated by gross receipts, according to Croteau.
``If you do $150 million in annual sales, we want to see where those receipts are going,'' she said. ``Naturally with greater receipts, your exposure will increase and so will your premiums. We also want to know things like how many trucks do you have in your fleet, what kind of trucks they are, how much equipment you have and whether you own your own buildings.''
Because RecycleGuard is a specific program for the recycling industry, it does things a little differently from other insurance carriers, Croteau said. For example, it makes an appointment with management and inspects the property before selling the premium. For startup recycling ventures, the process varies even further, she said.
``If you're a new venture, you're an unknown quantity,'' she said. ``We'll have no idea if your business plan is going to work. We'll be looking for anticipated financials and anything else that will show us you have experience in the business and can run it yourself.''
Another important thing RecycleGuard will look at when considering whether to write a firm's policy is to see how it handled previous accidents in the workplace, Croteau said.
Even the accidents that didn't result in claims are important, according to the speaker.