We are focused on Moving Beyond Zero. Good safety statistics are impressive, but our top priority is ensuring that our employees and contractors go home at the end of every day without a workplace injury. Because the success of our safety program depends on the daily efforts of our employees to understand potential hazards and operate responsibly, we do everything we can to provide them with the resources and training they need to always be safe.

At Covanta, we believe that all accidents and injuries are preventable. We are focused on identifying the root causes for each incident, including near misses. Every incident has three types of causes that must be identified and addressed: material, human and system. Material causes are the energy source or equipment involved in the incident. Human causes are those behaviors or actions that the affected person or a coworker took that put the person at risk. System causes are the organizational processes in place that allow or promote the behaviors or actions that workers take or don’t take, or that influence how equipment is maintained.

We are also focused on identifying potential hazards through internal audits and reviews, including focused behavioral safety audits. One key area of focus in 2019 and 2020 is identifying and mitigating potential line of fire hazards, which put workers in the path of energy. This can include risks associated with materials dropped from overhead, stored energy inside a chemical hose, pinch points produced when closing or opening equipment access doors, or working around moving equipment such as fork trucks.

Voluntary Protection Program

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), which is analogous to the OHSAS 18001 standard. The VPP is a rigorous, comprehensive safety and health management system program recognizing employers and employees who demonstrate exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health hazards. In practice, VPP sets performance-based criteria for a managed safety and health system. The required verification includes an application review and a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts.

Thirty-three of our locations have earned the VPP STAR rank of excellence, making Covanta one of the top ten 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. Star facilities must demonstrate exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health hazards as well as the development, implementation and continuous improvement of their safety and health management system.

In 2018, six facilities successfully completed VPP recertification. The OSHA VPP recertification process requires us to show continuous improvement and challenges us to strengthen the capabilities of our own employees and facilities. As part of this process, Covanta undergoes a comprehensive review by OSHA that includes interviewing our employees to understand firsthand the changes that have been made to improve systems and processes.

Stepping Up for Safety

Every day, we ask our employees to “step up” and take ownership of safety—both their own and that of their coworkers. “Safety Today and Every day is Paramount—Unleash the Power”—or “STEP-UP”—is Covanta’s internal leadership management program on safety, health and environment (SHE). In 2018, we continued to use the STEP-UP safety program to move to the next level of safety performance for employees and contractors, emphasizing effective communication and training in the workplace.

One of the primary ways we utilize the STEP-UP program is by convening monthly facility meetings that feature important discussion topics for all participants. This may include feedback and learnings from recent company events, updates on key safety and health initiatives at both the site and corporate level, and updates on site safety concerns. Meeting insights are cascaded from Covanta management to site employees. In turn, feedback during meetings flows back up through the organization. This approach ensures that these meetings are an integral part of the safety and health communications across the company.

Investing in Safety Training

Safety, health and environment (SHE) training is about preparing our employees to respond to hazardous situations while giving them the resources they need to identify those hazards before they occur. Our SHE training materials are constantly evolving to deliver fresh, engaging and relevant content that will raise awareness on specific safety topics among our employees.

For example, over the past few years, we’ve rolled out new resources for safety awareness and training, the overall goal of which is to enhance 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 “Stop the Drop,” which is focused on preventing falling and dropped objects. To help foster a strong safety culture, we train our employees to perform safety observations with a focus on effectively providing and receiving feedback. On a more technical note, we also provide training on specific hazards and procedures (e.g. spill identification and reporting, electrical safety).

Our “Red-Yellow-Orange Safety Training” is another important 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. Field employees receive at least 24 hours of training per year.

Contractor Safety and Health Performance

We regularly employ thousands of contractors in our facilities for maintenance jobs and other crucial functions. Ensuring their safety and health is just as important as it is for Covanta employees. Our six-factor contractor safety program focuses on qualification, safety and health performance assessment, outreach, communication, mentoring and training.

To identity safety-conscious contractors and manage our own risk, Covanta’s procurement and strategic sourcing departments pre-qualify all contractors and monitor the contracting process. Next, we rely on a third-party system, ISNetworld, to fully qualify contractors and to standardize the process across 10 geographic regions. This includes ensuring Covanta only works with contractors designated as having safety metrics below the industry-specific index or benchmark. We also leverage the ISN platform to communicate policies and expectations to contractors, retrieve safety statistics, and monitor safety, insurance and training requirements.

Our next big focus area in this effort will be to document individual contractor employee training and qualification. This will allow us to ensure that only the most qualified contractors are working at our facilities.