Improving resilience in waste transport

The problem addressed

Accidents may happen as well in well-controlled work environments where safety aspects are carefully considered as in work environment where continuous changes pose a challenge for everyday operations. Waste transfers are an example of work where unpredictable events occur once in a while and the workers need to make quick decisions how to operate in order to perform all work in the given timetable.

Improving resilience in waste transport is essential when successfully managing operations regardless of changes and disruptions which are faced during working days. This study aims in increasing knowledge about how to react while facing unforeseen changes in waste transportation work. In continuously changing work and working environment it is necessary to be prepared for unforeseen changes and disruptions.

This study focuses the preparedness of workers and organizations in waste transportation to the possible unwanted events and about the ability to maintain the preparedness. Being prepared for disruptions and changes helps reacting and continuing working without causing any extra delays and this preparedness increases safety, health and wellbeing of workers, which also improves the profitability of the company. When workers are able to react already for weak signals which may cause unwanted events in their work, this improves their ability in concentrating their actual task which improves their health, safety and empowering, as well as ability of continuing their operations regardless of the outcomes of unwanted events.

The study will be performed in co-operation with two waste transportation organizations. The study consists of three different phases: 1) present state analysis which will be performed by analyzing data of unwanted events, and observation and interviews, and 2) questionnaire and interviews which will focus on waste transport workers’ reaction for sudden changes and outcomes, and 3) further developing a tool for workplaces. The tool aims to increase the ability of identifying possible future threats by noticing weak signals for unwanted events.

Keywords: waste transport

Research questions

The purpose of this study is to improve resilience in waste transports. The aim is to find distractions and weak signals which can be assumed to influence in unwanted events for waste transportation workers and work processes. This project focuses on study questions, such as:

  • finding what are the weak signals of unwanted events and distractions in waste transport

  • what is the preparedness to act in disruptions in order to maintain the capability to finish the job

The objective is to perform present state analysis to find out how different weak signals are noticed and how distractions are reacted as individual and organizational level. After present state analysis the objective is to develop the ability to react after facing weak signals. This is a way to improve workers health, safety and level of empowerment.

Scientific disciplines: sociology, communication

Expected outputs

The resilience in participating waste transportation companies will be increased. The focus on reacting on disruptions and finding the weak signals for unwanted events will improve health and safety and this way it will also increase the productivity of the participating companies.

The method for identifying weak signals and communicating about different ways to react against disruptions will offer a new way to react proactively. Disseminating the method and study results will increase the awareness about the resilience thinking in other branch of businesses as well.


The study will be performed in co-operation with two Finnish waste transportation companies: Lassila & Tikanoja and HFT Network and a waste transport company in Spain. This study includes three phases:

  1. Present state analysis which will be performed in three sub-phases:

    1. Literature review, which focuses on previous studies about observing weak signals and reacting on distractios. Also previous studies about waste transport workers’ safety and health will be under focus.

    2. Analysing the data of unwanted events during the last three years in both co-operation companies. This information provides necessary information about the problems waste transportation workers face and it will be necessary information for the phase 1 c.

    3. Observation and interviews: Researcher participates in 10 working days in waste transportation work of both co-operation companies (20 days in total). During these days the researcher observes the distractions and how the worker reacts on them. Interviews of the workers are performed while observing. Interviews of management are performed individually in order to get management aspect as well. This is the basis of creating common understanding for reacting weak signals.

  2. Questionnaire will be developed and executed in three sub-phases:

    1. In the basis of the information gathered in present state analysis a questionnaire will be developed. The questionnaire helps in estimating the waste transport workers’ behaviour and operation in distraction situations.

    2. Gathering the information via the questionnaire. The questionnaire will be filled by participating companies’ waste transport workers.

    3. Analyzing the questionnaire. The questionnaire will be analyzed by researchers of this study.

  3. Creating a method for workplaces will be performed in two sub-phases:

    1. Further developing a tool: The information gathered from phases 1 and 2, a method for identifying distractions and weak signals will be developed. We will further develop the interview questions that were used in “Ennakoiva ja joustava turvallisuuden johtaminen. Resilienssi Suomessa” (translation: Proactive and resilient safety management. Resilience in Finland. Available at: study. The development of the method will lead to a tool that will be able to be utilised in workplaces for identifying the weak signals and for helping to develop the way how to react on distractions.

    2. Testing the method. The developed method will be tested in companies participating in this study and improvements will be made in the basis of the experiences from the testing.

Dissemination and promotion of the results will consist of four levels:

  1. Final reports to the two participating companies. The confidential final reports will consist of the results of present state analysis, questionnaire results and method developing. Suggestions for developing the waste transport work will be included in the final reports.

  2. Public final reports for funding organizations will be produced according to the policy of funding organizations.

  3. Popular publications: The developed method will be published in FIOH websites. The results will be reported to professional journals in Finland. Trade union information channel will also be used in dissemination of study results.

  4. Scientific reporting will be performed by writing an article to a scientific journal.

Associated deliverables

Waste transport workers face disruptions that threaten their occupational safety and well-being at work. Although it is impossible to eliminate all disruptions, it is essential that operations con- tinue normally as soon as possible after them. Recognizing the early signs of disruptions en- hances the ability to react in changing situations. In waste transport, the disruption risks involve, for example, the transported waste itself, vehicles, and the work environment, and a driver needs to be able to make choices during a disruption without endangering his own safety. The objective of the research was to ensure disruption-free and safe waste transport. In order to increase resilience, we aimed to recognize the early signs of danger and promote prepared- ness to operate during disruptions in the way required by the situation. The study methods were present state analysis, observations and interviews, on the bases of which a study ques- tionnaire was compiled for waste transport workers. Based on the results, a tool was developed to support supervisory work in waste transport companies. Unpredictable situations and disruptions are typical in waste transport work. The drivers who completed the questionnaire answered that the most typical disruptions occur weekly or even daily. These are disruptions caused by other traffic and disruptions linked to waste containers, such as the container being too heavy or containing the wrong type of waste. Waste transport workers mainly solve the disruptions themselves. Supervisory work was con- sidered important, and this emerged in both the interviews and the questionnaire responses. In disruption cases, according to the questionnaire responses the drivers first ensure safety if they have heard their foremen talking about issues related to occupational safety. An annual safety schedule was created to support foremen’s work, aiming to point out the most typical monthly themes as regards waste transport workers’ safety and well-being. Many of the disruptions that drivers face are solvable. However, drivers and their employers cannot solve these problems alone. Close co-operation between waste transport companies and corporations and real estate owners are crucial for a well-functioning environmental ser- vice. Real estate owners’ solutions concerning the location, filling and maintenance of waste containers are essential from the point of view of the waste transport worker.

Download deliverable

Presentation at Athens symposium
Presentation CC BY-SA published on 2017-02-02

Participating researchers

Pia Perttula (FIOH, Finland) — project coordinator

Simo Salminen (FIOH, Finland)

Vuokko Puro (FIOH, Finland)

Juan Carlos Rubio Romero (Universidad de Málaga, Spain)

Funding organizations

FIOH (Finland)

INAIL (Italy)

IDEA (Spain)

More details

Duration 2014-06 to 2016-04
Contact email
More information

Information last updated on 2017-02-02.

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