Waste Connections wins SWANA safety award

Waste Connections of Canada – Toronto District has won The Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) award for biggest safety improvement in 2021.

Waste Connections is joined by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) of New Jersey for Best Safety Innovation; and the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department (ACCSW) of Georgia for Best Covid-19 Response.

SWANA is also awarding Honorable Mentions to Whissell Waste Solutions of Alberta, Leck Waste Services of Pennsylvania, Burlington County Regional Recycling Program (BCRRP) of New Jersey, and LRS of Illinois.

Biggest safety improvement

The 2021 SWANA Safety Award for Biggest Safety Improvement goes to Waste Connections of Canada – Toronto District of Ontario. Its safety program is focused on extreme and personal one-on-one engagement with the result that total incident rates went from a high of 53.8 in 2016 down to 6.2 through May 2021.

This improvement was made by making changes in every area of the organization, including recruiting, training, staffing, scheduling, and communications. New technologies were also implemented, including Lytx/DriveCam, an on-going training app, electronic tablets, hopper cams, and more. To foster greater communication and eliminate communication silos, the building was renovated to integrate separate spaces into large common areas to dramatically increase personal interactions.

“Waste Connections of Canada Toronto District’s commitment to safety each and every day has been an inspiration to all of our employees across the country,” said Dan Pio, president Waste Connections of Canada.

“Central to their success is one-on-one engagement with each and every employee, empowering them to be their best and supporting them throughout their journey. That safety first mindset drives everything they do. Through their extreme ownership and building a culture of safety, Waste Connections Canada Toronto District reduced their incident rate substantially. On behalf of our nearly 3,000 employees in Canada, we want to recognize and congratulate the Toronto District for their success.”

Record entries

“We received a record number of applicants, from public agencies and private companies throughout the United States and Canada, including many small organizations,” said Suzanne Sturgeon, SWANA national safety committee chair and SCS engineers health & safety manager.

“It is a testament to the credibility of our awards program and an acknowledgement that a SWANA Safety Award provides valuable recognition. At a time when many in the industry are faced with staffing shortages and other challenges, it was wonderful that so many agencies and companies shared the stories of their recent successes and inspire others to do the same.”

Best safety innovation

The 2021 SWANA Safety Award for Best Safety Innovation goes to Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) of New Jersey. ACUA implemented a safety campaign to improve its safety culture by making the issue personal. The “See You at Home” campaign invited family and friends of ACUA employees to submit photos and videos to remind them of why it is important they stay safe on the job.

The result was personalized messaging for employees about the importance of safety created by the people most important to them. This unique campaign led to a substantial reduction in workers’ compensation and auto liability claims, as well as an increase in worker engagement on safety issues.

“ACUA has earned a reputation for innovation in Solid Waste; for example, greening our fleet by transitioning to Compressed Natural Gas and serving our communities with an array of shared service opportunities. We are very pleased to now be recognized for innovation regarding safety at ACUA,” said Janette Kessler, safety and risk manager for ACUA. 

“Our ‘See You at Home’ campaign serves as a reminder for employees to focus on the importance of working safely not only for themselves and for the organization, but also for their family and friends and the life they enjoy outside of work. ‘See You at Home’ helps everyone to see and appreciate the individuality of our employees through the eyes of the people who care about them. Our employees are our number one asset and we thank our employees for staying safe and helping to keep others safe on the job each day.”

Covid-19 response

This year, SWANA established a new awards category to recognize the industry’s essential work during the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2021 SWANA Safety Award for Covid-19 Response goes to the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department (ACCSW) of Georgia. ACCSW enacted a robust pandemic response to protect its workers and the public while continuing service without interruption.

None of its facilities was closed during the pandemic nor were any collection routes altered or services suspended. ACCSW demonstrated the successful implementation of its Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), provided ongoing safety information and training to workers, and embodied the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government’s campaign, “We’re all in this together.”

“The Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department has won many awards, but a safety award is special because it magnifies the most important component of any program – the people,” said Suki Janssen, director of ACCSW. “Additionally, this safety award is specifically for our Covid-19 response which exemplifies the resilience and perseverance of our staff. I thank SWANA for this honour.”

“This year’s many submissions were a great example of how SWANA members continue to lead on industry safety,” said Jesse Maxwell, SWANA advocacy & safety senior manager.

“Choosing the winners in each category was a real challenge with so many outstanding entries, and I want to thank the SWANA Safety Committee for volunteering their time and expertise to select this deserving group of winners.” 

The 2021 award winners will be recognized at WASTECON in Orlando, Florida on November 2 with presentations by some of the winning programs as part of the SWANA Safety Summit on November 3.