Covanta Case Study

Covanta Background

Covanta Energy-From-Waste provides an environmentally-friendly process that converts municipal solid waste into electricity. Covanta acquired our client, Veolia-Waste-To-Energy, an identical business, where we had reduced injury rates by 31 percent in the preceding two years.  They immediately realized how our behavior-based approach to managing risk could improve their bottom line. Unlike our transportation clients who face widespread, uncontrolled risk, Covanta already had most risk under control. Thus, it was an ideal client, fitting the profile of conscious-competence. They were getting excellent results, knew it, but wanted to get even better.


Industrial injuries are infrequent in manufacturing. Most risk has been isolated, eliminated and engineered out of the workplace through analysis, OSHA and EPA regulations, and engineering controls such as machine guards, signage and standardized work orders. Employees wear enough personal protective equipment to qualify for a medieval jousting contest. However, shortly before we met Covanta, one of their corporate executives died in a tragic accident, while touring a facility. This profoundly affected the leadership team. Employee health and safety remained a priority.


Avatar’s first step was to diagnose the situation. We conducted a Compass™ Analysis of Covanta’s operation which included both organizational as well as job-analyses. Through the Compass, we uncovered opportunities for process improvement and recommended new processes and best practices for hiring and new employee orientation and on-boarding.

We created Safety Leadership, a custom-designed curricula teaching leaders at all levels why people have accidents and how to intervene before unsafe behaviors result in an accident. The course provided six hours of asynchronous learning, followed by a five hour skills-building workshop. Using these same principles, we designed the Monthly Safety Initiative, a continuous safety communication campaign providing several different tools for communicating with all employees.


As a result, these synergistic strategies helped create a universal language and new cultural norms. Together, they led to increased mindshare, higher levels of employee engagement, and a 33 percent reduction in compensable injuries.