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Improving safety in the waste industry

Posted in: Workplace Injuries 

A landmark summit has recently taken place to discuss options for reducing the terrible toll of death, personal injury and ill health in the waste and recycling industry.

The summit was organised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum, and brought together senior figures from key players in the industry.

Waste and recycling remains dangerous

According to the HSE, there has been a welcome general downward trend in the rate of injury in the waste and recycling sector, but it still remains one of Britain’s most dangerous industries.

Although it accounts for only about 0.6% of the employees in Britain it still accounts for 2.8% of reported injuries to employees (4.2% fatalities, 2.5% major and 2.9% of over-three-day injuries).

Breakdown of injury figures

An analysis of HSE figures show that in waste and recycling in 2011/12:

  • there were six fatal injuries to workers, including one to a self-employed person. This compares with an average of eight over the previous five years;
  • there was one fatal injury to a member of the public, compared to an average of two a year over the previous five years;
  • the rate of reported over three day injury is almost five times that in agriculture or construction;
  • almost a third of the fatalities (29%) are due to employees being struck by vehicles;
  • about a third (35%) of reported major injuries are due to slips and trips;
  • almost half (45%) of reported over three day injuries are due to handling.

Safety summit

The purpose of the summit was to agree the key health and safety issues facing the industry and develop a plan of action to tackle its poor health and safety record.

Delegates at the event were urged to sign up to a statement of intent on HSE’s website, making a public commitment to drive improvements. The action plan is due to be published in April, once it has been ratified by WISH.

“The stark statistics which surround our sector’s record on health and safety tell their own story,” said David Palmer Jones, Chair of the Environmental Services Association (ESA). “We as the industry, both public and private sector, need to take stock and react appropriately to this challenge.”

However, he pointed out that the ESA has made progress in recent years, reducing accident rates by 70% since 2004.

“This shows the pattern can be changed, although there is still a lot of work ahead for all of us,” he concluded.

Example of the dangers

A case recently reported by the HSE demonstrates how real the dangers of the waste and recycling are for workers.

The case involved the death of a skip company employee, who was killed when he was run over by 13-tonne shovel loader as he cleaned out a drain pump in the firm’s yard in West Bromwich.

The subsequent HSE investigation found that the company did not have a transport plan in place to ensure that workers and vehicles were safely segregated on the site, despite being previously warned of the dangers involved in workplace transport by the HSE during a routine inspection.

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £45,000 and ordered to pay costs of £125,000.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.


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