Value in Safety

Using the tools and resources available to you can help in creating a proactive approach to safety.

Shawn Mandel

With the current economic downturn and a questionable outlook for recovery in the foreseeable future, companies are looking for value anywhere it can be found and are managing the middle more aggressively than ever before. Generally when I write safety articles, I attempt to evoke a sense of responsibility and personal ownership. I try to inspire the reader to “Do The Right Thing” for all the “Right Reasons”. It is about life, taking care of those around you and yourself. It is about understanding our responsibility to our employees and the public. However, this article is going to look at safety from a value proposition. For years the industry viewed the cost of safety as a part of doing business, but ask any experienced risk or safety manager and they will tell you that the financial ramifications of a poor or reactive safety program are enormous.

The associated costs of an ineffective and poor safety program (claims cost, insurance increases, loss of productivity, damaged equipment, potential loss of business, market impact and the list goes on) make it all the more compelling for companies to take an unprecedented approach and look at the value of safety. It is an investment in the most valuable assets we have, our people and our reputation.1 There are certainly costs to the development and deployment of an effective risk and behavioral-based safety program, but the value and return on the investment is unmatched to any other aspect of the business.

A Proactive Approach

Over the previous seven years, Waste Connections has taken an increasingly proactive approach to safety that has resulted in a 52 percent reduction in incident rates during that period. The value proposition is culminating in year over year improvement and fostering a culture of safety that is unique to the industry. Some of the investments made to achieve success include installing event recording technology throughout a fleet to identify risky driving behavior. This is an instrumental tool to the frontline manager to coach negative behavior and reinforce positive behavior prior to an accident occurring.

Additionally, defensive driver training systems which can which target intersection, rear collision, backing and rollover type of incidents, can assist in equipping and reinforcing the skills needed to successfully operate the vehicles while avoiding these most serious and costly vehicle accidents that occur in the industry.

Lastly, a progressive injury and illness prevention program that educates employees to the work related hazards found in the industry has been very beneficial. By evaluating necessary movement and the physiological effects to the body and providing tools needed to reduce and eliminate potential exposure, such as container life, automated side load systems and difficult stop awareness programs, we have been able to reduce the number and severity of work related injuries.


Partnerships with organizations within the waste industry can be investments that can prove to provide great return on the value of safety. Specifically, education, equipment manufacturing and technology partners can provide resources to identify cause, educate skills and develop remedies to avoid incidents. But the most effective tool remains the proactive personal ownership of every employee, led by managers and supervisors who are driven to safety and the goal of zero incidents.

Although it does take a great amount of investment to develop and deploy these proactive risk and behavioral based safety programs throughout its organization, the return on investment will continue for years to come.

Shawn Mandel is the Director of Safety for Waste Connections, Inc. He is responsible for the development, support and implementation of safety and compliance programs throughout the company. Shawn has more than 20 years of experience as a safety professional and joined Waste Connections in 2011. Prior to his role at Waste Connections, Shawn was the Director of Safety for Republic Services (formerly Allied Waste). He began his career in the waste industry in 1995 with BFI as an Environmental, Health and Safety Manager and served eight years in the military as a Navy Corpsman assigned to U.S. Marine Corps and Naval special forces units prior to that.

Shawn is a member of ANSI Z245 committees’ and a member of the NIOSH/NORA service sector committee. He can be reached at (916) 608-8203 or [email protected].


1. Ron Mittelstaedt, CEO of Waste Connections