ISRI’s Safety and Environmental Conference (ISEC) is the most comprehensive source of up-to-date information and guidance concerning safe operations and environmental compliance in the recycling industry. Environmental health and safety (EHS) and operations professionals from across the industry share lessons learned, best practices, and more.

There is still time to register for the spring ISEC, which will be June 14-16 in St. Louis. Special Early Bird pricing ends Monday, May 9. The event is at the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first in-person ISEC since fall 2019.

“It’s a chance to get back together and reassociate with colleagues,” says Dr. Ryan Nolte, Ph.D., ISRI’s director of safety outreach. He emphasizes that discussions about safety-related incidents at member companies take place in a friendly environment. “At ISEC, it’s an in-person, open discussion—with no recordings—and the information stays there,” Nolte says.

This will be the first in-person ISEC for Rose Sinclair, environmental compliance specialist at Casella Springfield Recycling in Springfield, Mass. She chairs ISRI’s ISEC Committee. “I’m looking forward to people really being authentic in the stories they’re sharing, and wanting to get those reactions, to pop off ideas, and get into a roundtable discussion of, ‘This is what happened to me, what happened to you?’ and teaching each other,” she says. “The power of the storytelling can’t be discounted—it’s really, really powerful, and really potent.”

Sarah Willcutts, manager at Greeley, Colo.-based metal recycler Andersen’s Sales & Salvage has attended past ISECs and is vice-chair of the ISEC Committee. “The biggest value [of ISEC] has been the network of safety minded professionals that are willing to brainstorm and provide support during ISEC meetings and after the meetings are over,” she says. “The discussions on near-misses and lessons learned have also been extremely helpful allowing us to bring back new safety ideas and eliminate ideas that have already failed elsewhere.”

The spring ISEC agenda promises to have something for everyone. Some examples of the diverse safety and environmental topics include:

  • Prevention of serious injury and fatality (SIF) accidents, near misses, and root-cause analyses.
  • Addressing mental health with an emphasis on unplanned stressors and responses.
  • Emergency management agency representatives discuss response to disasters.
  • Update on the group of chemicals known as PFAS by Dr. David Wagger, Ph.D., ISRI’s chief scientist and director of environmental management.
  • Fire prevention and planning training developed with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Susan Harwood grant program.
  • Tips for preventing hazardous materials from entering the ferrous metals stream.
  • Handling and storage of lithium batteries.
  • Management systems in practice.
  • Highway safety and how it affects heavy trucks.
  • Open-microphone free discussion on June 16.
  • Particulate dust in recycling or shredding operations.

Jerry Sjogren, ISRI’s senior director of safety, chaired three ISECs while working as an industry EHS manager. “[Organizers] recognize that this is the ISRI Safety and Environmental Council. So, we try to balance the environmental aspects as well as the safety side of the house,” he explains. Sjogren adds: “Mental health has been a buzzword; I’m personally pleased to hear that people are recognizing mental health as an illness and are wanting to hear more about it.”

The ISEC Committee spent many hours making sure the return to an in-person gathering is memorable. “You want to hit it out of the park so that people walk away and say, ‘Wow, you know, I got a lot out of that. I’m coming back for the next one,’” Sjogren says.

Early bird pricing is $390 for ISRI members and $780 for nonmembers. After May 9, the cost is $465 for members and $855 for nonmembers. Circle of Safety Excellence™ charter members receive one complimentary registration. To receive the comp code, contact ISRI Vice President of Safety Tony Smith, tsmith@isri.org.

“If you come to ISEC, you have that chance to connect with people in your geographic area who have the same issues as you,” Nolte says. “That’s where you can build valuable relationships in this industry.”

Photo courtesy of Storyblocks.

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; marketing communications; and nonprofit advocacy.