Managing a Merger and a Pandemic Is No Easy Feat. Here’s How Waste Management’s Jeff Bennett Tackled It All

Waste Management’s Jeff Bennett worked to make sure employee health was a priority through both COVID-19 and a major acquisition.
By: | September 2, 2021

For many, it’s hard to forget the day in March 2020 when COVID-19 disrupted their lives.

Millions of workers were sent home to do their jobs remotely as companies and governments sought to protect them from the pandemic.

While remote work was a great solution to help people social distance, not every company could run all of their operations from home.

Waste Management, a company that provides waste collection services for municipal, industrial, residential and commercial customers in 48 states, Washington D.C. and Canada, knew its employees would have to keep reporting to work every day. Its workers had to keep picking up trash, global pandemic or not.

And it was up to Jeff Bennett, the company’s assistant treasurer and senior director of risk, to figure out how to keep the company running and keep workers safe while community and regulatory standards shifted.

“Each location is going to have their own unique set of challenges,” Bennett said. “I fully recognize the strength of the team I have here at Waste Management. They’re exceedingly great at the jobs they do.”

As if that wasn’t enough of a hurdle, the company closed the largest waste acquisition in the past decade when it bought Advanced Disposal Systems for $5 billion during this same time.

The company had an influx of new workers, and Bennett had to create a new workers’ compensation program for them during an exceedingly challenging time.

“Waste Management has been in the unique position of having to operate as ‘business as usual’ while circumstances nation — if not worldwide — have been anything but,” said Janet Hill, assistant vice president of client services at Gallagher Bassett.

“Jeff is an exemplary leader in that he encourages autonomy and creativity, while providing support and guidance, when needed.”

When faced with the challenge, Bennett immediately got to work. He leaned on his background in treasury and finance and worked with Gallagher Bassett, the company’s TPA, to create models that provided insight into variables that drive claim frequency and severity, allowing the company to make more informed operational and safety-based decisions.

He also worked to develop a transitional return-to-work program, which helps employees get back to work while still making progress towards healing.

The goal is not for them to work through the injury, but rather to make a full recovery while still completing their jobs, in a similar way to how athletes begin to slowly work out again after injury.

“They don’t jump right back in when they think they’re ready. They rehab, they work their way back up to where they are,” Bennett said.

The program employs a clinical model, with occupational health managers who are dedicated to the program. As a result, legacy Advanced Disposal Systems saw a 40% reduction in its lost work days. &

Every year, Risk & Insurance selects deserving candidates to become Risk All Stars. These are risk managers who, through their perseverance, passion and creativity, make a big difference to the stability of their organizations.

See all the 2021 Risk All Star Winners here.

Courtney DuChene is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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