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Anthony J. Orlando

2013 CEOs Who "Get It"

February 1, 2013

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Anthony J. Orlando
President & CEO
Covanta Energy Corp.

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

ANTHONY J. ORLANDO: Covanta strives for an employee culture that integrates a prevailing awareness of safe behaviors with all work duties and eliminates unsafe norms. Our employees are empowered through hazard recognition and control to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors and to take appropriate actions. We believe that all accidents are preventable, and that every task must be performed with the utmost concern for safety, health and the environment. As a group, Covanta employees feel these commitments deeply and practice them steadily.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who "gets it." What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

My personal journey began with my formal education in engineering and the recognition of how sound design plays a primary role in workplace safety. Early on I thought a well-engineered system would be sufficient in ensuring the workplace would be free of injury and harm. Then, during my first eight years at Covanta, I worked as the project manager for two of Covanta's largest Energy-from-Waste facilities. It was during this time that I learned a lot about the human element related to workplace safety. Today, having been part of Covanta's business operations for more than 25 years, I have gained a full appreciation for the benefits that come from a culture that truly values safety. It is not only the right thing to do for our employees; it is also vital in our business performance and in the delivery of services to our clients. Asking people to be safe or expecting them to perform safely is not enough. Wanting to have safety as a core value or stating that in your mission is not enough. Safety management systems must be front and center, visible to all and practiced by everyone ñ from senior executives to frontline employees, including contractors and our business associates who frequent our facilities.

What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?

Even with our robust safety management systems and with all employees actively engaged in hazard recognition and control, we are not immune to injuries and incidents. Our statistics show that our most vulnerable employees are those in their job capacity for less than one year. For new hires and anyone who has had an injury, we utilize a mentoring program for the first 90 days that encompasses a personal work plan with a variety of elements. Other examples of our efforts include a morning stretch and flex program administered at each facility and instruction on utilizing proper body mechanics prior to lifting. We reinforce that there is no need to rush while conducting any task and emphasize how critical it is to ask for help when needed. We challenge our employees to always be aware of their surroundings and to assess situations continually while working in an area. Most importantly, we teach how to become a safety leader by practicing and modeling safety norms while resisting the temptation to be influenced by poor decisions of others.

We've also focused on certain classifications of injuries like "brute force" and "line of fire" injuries. We have identification campaigns going on in which employees are challenged to look for innovative ways to eliminate the need for brute force to complete a task by engineering a solution, improving the selection of tools or enhancing the job setup prior to beginning the work. Eliminating line-of-fire injuries requires employees to assess their surroundings and the field of impact, to look for potential failure points in the job setup and to be positioned away from the hazard. In the end, overcoming these obstacles comes down to training, communication and constant vigilance for every task performed.

How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?

We teach safety leadership and develop everyone's sense of responsibility for maintaining a safe and environmentally sound workplace. All organizations experience an "ebb and flow" to their safety performance, so periodically it is important to add a new "push" to the safety management systems. In 2009, we rolled out an enhanced safety program called "STEP-UP," which is an acronym for "Safety Today and Every day is Paramount, Unleash the Power." Since then, our OSHA recordable rate has dropped by 50 percent and workers' compensation dollars have dropped in a similar fashion. STEP-UP included very simple but very powerful concepts utilizing new communication methods and training techniques focused on employee engagement, safety-focused meetings targeted to first-line supervisors and their managers on the safety of their employees, and the implementation of new accountability structures designed to reach and unite employees and their management teams.

How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement?

For many years our safety management system has included leading indicators such as daily inspections, job observations, audits, root cause analyses, job safety analyses, hazard recognition and control techniques, near-miss reporting, process hazard analysis, work orders, and a quarterly snapshot program. Last year, we shined a spotlight on our near-miss program. To engage all employees in finding conditional and behavioral near misses, we set a target for each facility hourly employee to find and write a minimum of two near misses per month. We developed a lifecycle analysis to evaluate the near misses on an equivalent, standardized workflow basis and to assess each for quality, completeness and timeliness. The near-miss reports are rolled up into a trend report that helps to prioritize maintenance and administrative resources. In the end, the leading indicator data provides more immediate knowledge of the workplace conditional and behavioral precursors and allow actions to be initiated before accidents and injuries occur. In terms of areas for improvement, we'd like to automate this system more effectively in the future.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization's overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

Covanta employees frequently remark that their families have learned a lot from the Covanta workplace safety program. We've even been told that spouses apply our safety principles perhaps as consistently and properly at home as we do at work; we always appreciate hearing that family members reinforce safety at home. Periodically, we have safety celebrations that family members attend and recently through our wellness program, we've had family members participating in various 5K walk/run events held across the country.

In addition, Health Assessments were promoted in 2011 for all employees and family members covered under Covanta's medical plans. The assessments were used to identify and target initiatives for addressing specific health risk factors. And this year, in partnership with external health organizations, we launched a companywide Wellness Strategy in the areas of smoking cessation and weight management. While we certainly have more to do in this area, I am proud of the programs we have in place.


Covanta Energy Corp. is a world-leading sustainable waste management and renewable energy company, employing 3,500 workers. Covanta's 44 Energy-from-Waste facilities provide communities around the world with an environmentally sound solution to their solid waste disposal needs by using municipal solid waste to generate clean, renewable energy. Annually, the company processes approximately 20 million tons of waste into electricity for 1 million homes.

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