Often, when people think of “sustainability,” they think about “protecting the environment,” but sustainability is also about protecting people. If we think about ourselves and our co-workers on a personal level, it’s clear that injuries and accidents are not sustainable. As part of our safety program in 2016, Covanta focused on the “Why?” behind safety: that is, our purpose, cause or belief that inspires us to work safely. In almost every case, our whys come down to protecting our tomorrow, for our colleagues, friends, families and communities.

At Covanta, we believe that all accidents and injuries are preventable, not inevitable. Our employees and contractors, through their awareness of hazards and their actions on the job, are the key to our safety and health performance.

We model our Safety Management System on the stringent provisions of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The VPP is a management system program recognizing employers and employees who demonstrate exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health hazards.

We are among the top 10 companies in the United States with a majority of operating locations recognized as STAR Worksites. Our participating facilities promote effective worksite-based safety and health performance through hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, management commitment and worker involvement.

The OSHA VPP recertification process gives us the opportunity to discuss safety issues, processes and systems with a team from OSHA or with safety experts from other companies, helping strengthen the capabilities of our own employees and facilities. In 2016, eight facilities successfully completed VPP recertification.

Stepping Up for Safety, Health and Environment Core Values

STEP-UP is Covanta’s internal safety and environmental awareness, leadership and structured safety, health and environment (SHE) management program. STEP-UP stands for “Safety Today and Every day is Paramount—Unleash the Power.” Our STEP-UP program helps us move to our next level of safety performance. We continue to use the STEP-UP safety program for employees and contractors, emphasizing communications surrounding safety and health in the workplace.

Investing in SHE Training

Our “Red-Yellow-Orange Safety Partner Training” is one element of our STEP-UP program. All corporate employees must receive three to nine hours of safety training, coded red-yellow-orange, depending on their job function. Annually, corporate Supply Chain (e.g., operations, maintenance and engineering) employees also receive 24 hours of SHE training. Likewise, field employees receive at least 24 hours of training per year.

We continually invest in updating our SHE training and involve our employees in developing fresh and relevant content. For example, over the past few years, we’ve rolled out new resources for safety awareness and training with the overall goal of enhancing performance by bringing safety information and awareness to employees in an accessible, fun and engaging way. SHE videos developed by Covanta facility employees cover specific safety topics pertinent to operations, such as safety and health leadership, behavioral safety and technical topics. In 2016, we invested in specialized cloud-based software to make these videos both easier to develop and more accessible over a wider variety of platforms, including mobile devices. Committed safety leadership across all levels of the company is imperative to developing an interdependent world-class safety culture. In 2017, we expanded the latest version of SHE training throughout our regions, where it will eventually touch the entire workforce.

Empowering Covanta Employees to Take Ownership of Safety

  • Leadership training. This six-part series is required to be completed by all Facility Management, Supervision and all Corporate employees within six months of hire or promotion. It is designed around developing safety leaders.
  • Peer mentoring and feedback. Peer mentoring and support coupled with positive self-coaching are key elements of our safety programs. For example, when there is a near-miss incident, rather than taking punitive action, we focus on examining the behavior behind the event.
  • Guidance for Personal Safety (GPS). As part of the GPS program, all new Covanta employees literally wear green hard hats for their first year so that fellow employees can provide guidance on safe behaviors and protocols.
  • Tailgate Meetings. 10-15 minute “Tailgates” are held weekly, at the beginning of shifts, and led by shift supervisors. Topics may include new processes, regulatory changes or some of the video or written resources developed by other Covanta employees. Tailgates help us keep our SHE focus day in and day out.
  • Communicating best practices. Our company intranet includes a safety page with articles based on current events or monthly awareness programs, such as fire protection month in September. Direct Current, our monthly internal employee newsletter, notes special accomplishments. Each Covanta facility focuses safety discussions on a Monthly Main Topic, a current company or industry event that is discussed at facility meetings.

Contractor Safety and Health Performance

Over the span of a year, thousands of contractors work at our facilities, particularly for maintenance. Our contractors’ safety and health performance is just as important as our own. We have implemented a six-factor contractor safety program around qualification, mentoring, safety and health performance assessment, communication, outreach and training.

We qualify every contractor we work with for safety excellence through a third-party qualification organization called ISNetworld. This partnership allows us to standardize contractor management across 10 geographic regions. The ISN infrastructure and contractor portal enables us to communicate and monitor safety, insurance, training requirements and expectations of contractors, as well as to retrieve safety statistics. To identity safety-conscious contractors and manage our own risk, we work with “A-grade” contractors, which means their safety metrics are lower than their industry-specific index or benchmark.