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‘Safety first’ built into DNA at Northampton company

PHOTO COURTESY OF ENVIRONMENTAL WASTE MINIMIZATION INC. A job site for Environmental Waste Minimization Inc., which won the Governor’s Award for Safety Excellence.

Safety is its business.

It’s a job Environmental Waste Minimization Inc. takes so seriously it was recognized last year with a prestigious Governor’s Award for its record and initiatives.

“In our business, if you are not a safe company, you are not going to stay in business,” said Joseph J. Fittos III, health and safety director for EWMI in Northampton.

EWMI provides professional field safety services for site remediation, disposal, demolition and decommissions, as well as soil management and lab pack services of hazardous and nonhazardous materials on job sites.

EWMI was one of three firms honored with the Governor’s Award for Safety Excellence through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

Fittos said hiring engineers look at safety records when jobs are bid and that all-important first impression – in practice and on paper – was critical.

The National Safety Council estimated a staggering $151.1 billion in costs for work injuries in 2016, including amounts lost in wages and productivity, medical and administrative costs, property damage from motor vehicles and costs to employers.


Michael D. Logan, president and a principal of Compliance Plus Services Inc. in Horsham, said his company often is hired by EWMI to make unannounced visits to job sites for surprise safety audits. The unannounced inspections keep everyone on their toes.

Fittos said planned and unplanned job site inspections provide “outside eyes and ears,” and are another layer of protection for workers. Daily on-the-job familiarity may create an environment where safety isn’t best served.

“You can walk past something 100 times and not see it,” Fittos said.

Test pits and boring samples are other precautions that can gauge hazards on a job, and be used to tailor safety plans for individual sites.


Logan said his company provides surprise visits on EWMI client jobs, too.

“That’s an additional service EWMI provides to their customers,” he said.

The value of spot safety checks goes a long way to increase awareness and make sites safer, according to Logan.

“It means their guys are used to being inspected,” Logan said.


Thomas Rebar of Compliance Management International in North Wales said EMWI goes the extra mile in protecting workers and ensuring problems don’t become larger environmental issues to surrounding neighborhoods.

Eliminating exposures and keeping workers safe during a cleanup job were the top priorities, he said.

Rebar said his firm worked with EWMI on an Environmental Protection Agency superfund site cleanup in Ohio, where airborne contaminants were a risk. It was around the same time last year when the Governor’s Award was announced.

There were daily safety meetings to look at what was done yesterday and what needed to be done today, he said. Identifying exposure issues is where each day’s safety meeting begins, Rebar said.


Safety gear routinely includes clothing such as steel-toed boots, helmets, ear protection and vests.

Other gear is dictated by the type of hazards workers may encounter such as pesticides, heavy metals or volatile organic compounds such as solvents.

Known as VOCs, these compounds typically have a low boiling point – when the dangers can be released into the air or water – and may be manmade or occur organically.


Careful monitoring of workers in hot spots also is essential, according to Rebar.

That could mean limiting time and therefore exposure, as well as using high-tech gear, including head-to-toe suits and oxygen or respirators.

Field workers who may be exposed to environmental hazards also are frequently blood-tested to ensure they’re OK.

“[EWMI] really is a top firm,” Rebar said. “They provide ongoing training, and in my 23 years, I have never seen a company handle safety the way they do.”

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