An organizations commitment to safety begins with its leadership. The executive leadership team establishes the level of importance placed on safety, ensures adequate resources for safety and reinforces safety through their words and actions. Few have done better at this then Waste Connections executive team led by Ron Mittelstaedt, Chief Executive Officer and Darrell Chambliss, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, but both of them realize that commitment-based safety requires the frontline managers and supervisors to effectively communicate with their employees.

Supervisors play a critical role in safety and must be equipped with the skills and resources to effectively communicate the organizations commitment and establish relationships with the employees that foster a ZERO incident culture. “Waste Connections Commitment-Based Safety” is a foundational element to the ZERO incident culture we are striving to achieve, says Shawn Mandel, Director of Safety for Waste Connections. One of the key ingredients for this culture is a new approach to an old supervisory tool known as the “employee observations”. Many managers and supervisors in the industry have viewed the employee observation process as a “check-the-box” safety requirement and many employees in the industry look at it as a “gotcha-tool” for management, but Waste Connections understands the importance of the supervisor as a servant leader and how their communication and relationship skills are critical to the development of our ZERO incident culture.

This year, Shawn Mandel and Hank Coles, Director of Training and Servant Leader Enthusiologist for Waste Connections, have partnered with behavioral experts to develop the Active Behavioral Connections Supervisor Training, or better known as Conversation U. The training provides the supervisor with the skills to have effective conversations with their employees at every opportunity and to challenge what people do and coach how they do it to get better results. Additionally, it provides tools to rank their employees based on potential risk and then base the frequency of the contact and conversational opportunities on the ranking, thus engaging employees and changing behavior to create the culture. Many industry supervisors believe that safety should be limited to a 45 minute safety meeting once a month, but Waste Connections realizes that the safety of their employees and the general public is the first operating value and it impacts every aspect of the business. The one day training session, Conversation U, will be required for all frontline managers and supervisors. Rollout is expected to be completed by June 2013 and refresher training will be on-going.

WCI have seen tremendous progress over the previous several years reducing the incident rate over 50 percent while growing the business over 300 percent, but safety is one area that must strive for perfection. The core elements of Waste Connections safety; Culture, Leadership, and Sustainable systems, have prepared us for this next evolution of safety and we are excited to continue the momentum.

For more information, contact Shawn Mandel, Director of Safety for Waste Connections, Inc. at (832) 442-2203 or