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Waste Connections of Canada among SWANA 2021 Safety Award winners

A safety worker holds a hard hat on a job site
The 2021 SWANA Safety Award categories are Biggest Safety Improvement, Best Safety Innovation and Best COVID-19 Response.

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has announced their 2021 SWANA Safety Award winners, including: Waste Connections of Canada -Toronto District for Biggest Safety Improvement; Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) of New Jersey for Best Safety Innovation; and Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department (ACCSW) of Georgia for Best COVID-19 Response.

SWANA is also awarding Honourable 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.

"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."

Biggest Safety Improvement to Waste Connections, Toronto

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.

According to Waste Connections, 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 of 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."

Best Safety Innovation to Atlantic County, New Jersey

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.

COVID-19 Response Award to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

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 were 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."

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.