At WM, safety is a core value, consistently influencing behavior throughout the organization. This is for good reason: The U.S. federal government ranks trash and recycling collection among the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the United States, with drivers and collectors facing risks from motor vehicle crashes and unique workplace hazards.

Disposal facility workers must be constantly vigilant when working with sophisticated equipment because it can cause serious harm if operated improperly. Despite a 40 percent reduction in industry fatality and injury rates between 2001 and 2009, and fatality rates decreasing 57 percent from 2014 to 2015, the highest level of safety vigilance must be maintained at all times.

Our Safety Philosophy

For more than a decade, we’ve lived by our formalized safety philosophy, Mission to Zero™ (M2Z). The core of the M2Z philosophy is zero tolerance for unsafe behaviors by all employees, with a goal of eradicating all accidents and injuries through coaching and building knowledge. Our safety program includes thorough training, standardized rulebooks and a suite of industry-leading programs, such as installation of video event recorders in more than 95 percent of our collection and support vehicles across the United States.

In an effort to communicate the shared responsibility to safety by leadership and employees alike, we developed a safety vision statement that has guided our program:

Safety Vision Statement

World-class safety is achieved when committed employees embrace safety as a core value and act consistently to influence behavior. Safety should not be considered only a “priority,” but instead a core value with no compromise. It requires:

Leadership to:

  • Clearly communicate and model safe behavior
  • Genuinely care and demonstrate concern for their employees
  • Accept nothing less than a safe operation

Employees to:

  • Accept responsibility for their safe behavior
  • Actively care about the safety of others
  • Participate in all aspects of the Waste Management safety programs

This philosophy of shared responsibility is also aligned with an expansion of our peer review process to work within the disciplinary policies necessary to assure compliance with our safety policies. We continually seek to improve employee adherence to the policies and understanding of their importance. These safety policies are the result of data analysis and consultation with industry experts, and it is important that all employees follow these rules.

Under the peer review process, employees facing disciplinary action for violating safety rules can have the matter heard before a panel of peers. Local employees develop details of the procedure by electing their local panel and determining an approach to presenting facts. After being briefed on the facts, the panel determines whether or not the safety policy was violated.

More than 100 hearings have been requested since 2011, and the number of cases filed has declined over time. We believe the peer review process has elevated employee recognition of the importance of implementing safety rules consistently. Furthermore, it has improved consistency in following company rules with due appreciation for the specifics of an employee’s situation. The process has also increased employee engagement with our safety program and strengthened communication with and among supervisors. Finally, the peer review process has identified opportunities to improve our training programs. We hope the peer review program will further reinforce our safety culture as something employees and managers achieve on a daily basis.

Safety Performance

In compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, we record work-related injuries and illnesses and report them to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This federal agency uses the information to calculate organization- and industry-specific injury and illness incident rates (per 100 employees), including the Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) and the Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) case rate.

We are proud to report that we have seen a substantial decrease in our injury rates, which are consistently better than the overall industry average. As a result, we are recognized among the best in our industry for our comprehensive approach to safety.

Total Recordable Injury
Rate (TRIR)

  • Waste Management
  • Industry Average

TRIR decreased 87 percent between 2000, when M2Z was launched, and 2015. For 2014, our TRIR of 3.2 was 37 percent better than the 2014 industry average of 5.1, the most recent government statistic available.

Vehicle Accident
Recordable Rate (VARR)

VARR improved 66 percent from 2005, when we established this indicator and initiated new and enhanced driver training programs, to 2015. Note that two incident types were reclassified from “property damage” to “vehicle accident” in 2014, making the VARR standard stricter.

Days Away Restricted or
Transferred (DART)

  • Waste Management
  • Industry Average

DART decreased 65 percent between 2005 and 2015. Our 2014 DART of 2.4 is 29 percent better than the 2014 industry average of 3.4, the most recent government statistic available.

Safety Communications Tools

Safety performance, broken down by area, service function and even equipment use, is shared monthly with employees, with recognition given to accident- and injury-free sites. We also track monthly trends to identify best practices and areas requiring management focus; we share monthly safety advisories with employees. Accident trends are monitored by type (e.g., slips, falls, sprains, etc.) and the impact on productivity. At disposal operations, significant accidents, such as vehicle rollover, are subject to root cause briefings, with company standard rules updated when necessary to eliminate recurrence. In addition, we also utilize communication tools such as:

  • A monthly Driving Science video series for our hauling teams, post-collection employees, maintenance teams and energy services division. These video messages review risks specific to individual roles that must be managed as a part of each workday.
  • A toll-free safety Help Line available to our contractors to supplement their initial safety training.
  • WM Monday, our company newsletter, features articles on best safety practices and accidents by employees of other companies in the environmental service sector to raise awareness of risks in our own operations.
  • CEO Update, a regular communication from our chief executive to all employees, frequently emphasizing safety messages.

Excellence in safety performance is recognized by our CEO at a celebratory Town Hall to recognize Driver and Operators of the Year, and is telecast via web for all employees. A company safety recognition program is standard, providing each operation and area the means to recognize excellence. Employees are also recognized each week in WM Monday. We encourage active engagement between employees and leadership, with our Driver and Route Manager Councils providing a chance for employees to identify risks and best practices together with senior leadership. We find that the councils solve problems and create a new spirit of teamwork.

We work actively with our industry trade association, the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), in its efforts to improve industry safety through training and compliance with regulations, industry standards and company rules and policies, as well as through improvements in roadway regulations. For example, Waste Management and the NWRA have helped pass Slow Down to Get Around laws, which require drivers to change lanes or slow down when passing vehicles like ours. In addition, NWRA is a Standards Developing Organization through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and Waste Management is proud to be a member of NWRA’s accredited standards committee.

Vehicle Safety and Driver Training

With roughly 17,000 Waste Management trucks on the road each day, vehicle safety is a strong focus. Each year we invest approximately $500 million in the maintenance of collection vehicles and $100 million in maintenance and repairs for heavy equipment. We inspect each vehicle twice daily to support proper operation and tie preventive maintenance inspections to vehicle usage rates. These investments in fleet safety, driver training and onboard equipment have helped us decrease reported vehicle accidents by 57 percent from 2007 through 2015.

We provide on-the-job training and evaluation programs for our drivers who meet and/or exceed U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements. Newly hired drivers undergo more than 80 hours of training, in both the classroom and on the road, with an experienced driver. As part of the training process, evaluations are given at 30, 60 and 75 days. We conduct driver briefings each morning before drivers begin their routes. We monitor to assure compliance with federal regulations for the maximum number of hours spent behind the wheel and require all drivers to pass a general physical and meet DOT physical requirements.

Our Driver Training Center, located in Fort Myers, Florida supports our drivers around the country. The Center provides hands-on as well as computer lab courses and classroom training on critical safety rules and operating practices, with interactive stations devoted to procedures such as safe lifting, Hazardous Energy Control Program (Lock-Out/Tag-Out) and vehicle inspections, among others. Drivers undergoing this intensive training program serve as mentors in their areas, spreading what they learn across the country.

Looking to the future, we will soon be certifying drivers in the SAFETY system, an advanced training program that teaches the critical skills of safe driving. The principles learned through SAFETY will be revisited monthly and demonstrated to drivers through an ongoing video series.

Number of Drivers Completing Intensive Two-Week Training, by Line of Business

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Roll-Off

Safety Technology

Our great strides in safety performances reflect an ongoing strategy to leverage technology in our safety processes. In recent years, Service Delivery Optimization (SDO) has significantly improved our collection and maintenance operations by optimizing our systems through technology that includes onboard computers, routing software and cameras.

A critical element of SDO is DriveCam®, a small video recorder mounted on the windshield of our collection vehicles. The recorder is triggered by certain vehicle behaviors, such as aggressive braking, swerving or a collision. Once an event is captured, the device sends the event to DriveCam personnel, who analyze the occurrence and then send information back to Waste Management field managers for performance coaching.

DriveCam also provides our field managers with data related to our goals for reducing risky driving behaviors like following too closely, committing traffic violations and allowing distractions. These insights allow us to proactively coach our drivers and reduce the frequency and severity of collisions. Risk evaluation is ongoing, with tracking by the kind of incident and its severity. Historically, personal observations and incident records were the primary tools available to our managers to identify opportunities for improvement with our drivers, so DriveCam allows us to pre-emptively address problematic behaviors before they become ingrained habits.

DriveCam also allows us to appreciate the ways our drivers avoid collisions with defensive driving techniques. We use these events to document and disseminate best practices among our drivers, featuring the best examples of defensive driving in our “DriveCam Play of the Month.”

In addition to reducing the number of collisions, DriveCam is contributing to reductions in claims as well as fuel and maintenance costs. In fact, DriveCam has been so successful that we’re now offering it to our employees to use in their personal vehicles. Through the DriveCam for Families Program, employees in the United States and Canada can receive a DriveCam for personal use at a 30 percent discount. Although it works the same as Waste Management’s program, the home version video can be accessed only by the family.

A Call for Safety On Site and Beyond

Whether it’s a closed landfill, a renewable energy plant or a recycling drop-off facility, Waste Management has a number of locations across North America that may sometimes be staffed by a single person. While this makes for an efficient operation, it also comes with a risk: What if a lone worker needs emergency assistance while on the job?

Gregory Miller was recognized by DriveCam as third-place Coach of the Year for 2015.

Jesus Santos was chosen as the NWRA’s Driver of the Year for large residential vehicles from among more than 1,000 nominations. Three other Waste Management drivers – Julio De Paz, Sam Smith and Paul Stuart – were among the 39 finalists for the award.

We are proud to participate regularly in the National Waste & Recycling Association’s Safety Stand Downs, a week of training and events to help avoid accidents related to truck backing, a common challenge in our industry. A recent Safety Stand Down on Water. Rest. Shade. took a similar approach to educate workers in our industry on how to avoid heat exhaustion while working in hot weather.

Out of 500 companies that use DriveCam® technology, our driver Jermaine Jackson was recognized by DriveCam as third-place Driver of the Year for 2015.

Through Waste Management Security Services, Inc.’s (WMSSI) Call for Safety program, operators now have a tool that can offer protection. The Loner Safe Monitoring Device is about the size of a cell phone and attaches to a belt. Its motion sensors detect if an employee has been motionless for a period of time, which triggers an alert. Unless the alert is deactivated, a signal is sent to our Security Operations Center in Houston, Texas, which attempts to contact the employee or emergency responders. The device also features a silent panic button and GPS tracking in case a worker falls or an impact occurs. This program and device have been so effective that we extended its value to our customers as a service offering.

For more than a decade, WMSSI has provided overall protection of our more than 2,000 facilities and $25 billion-plus in assets. Today, WMSSI not only serves Waste Management, but also monitors alarms and provides innovative programs that can enhance business operations by minimizing risk of loss. Our security services team uses intelligent video monitoring and a state-of-the-art Master Control Center to alert both internal and external clients instantly when a covered situation arises. Services provided by WMSSI include video monitoring, mobile surveillance systems, fire and intrusion alarm monitoring, access control, intelligent operations (software application), systems administration, fleet GPS tracking, lone worker safety, executive home protection and security systems integration.