HSE outlines plan to improve waste and recycling sector safety

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its sector plan for increasing safety in the waste and recycling industry, identifying reducing fatal injuries from moving vehicles and musculoskeletal disorders and lung disease among employees as priorities.

The plan, released yesterday (18 September), seeks to address the serious safety issues within the waste and recycling sector. The waste and recycling sector, which is made up of around 120,000 workers, remains one of the most dangerous in the UK, with a fatal injury rate almost ten times higher than the industry average - 14 people were fatally injured in the 2016/17 period, a figure considerably higher than the previous year’s six deaths.

According to the plan, in the five years leading up to March 2016 there were also 12 fatalities to members of the public as a result of work activity in the sector with most deaths to both sector workers and members of the public being caused by moving vehicles or machinery.

Health and Safety Executive outlines plan to improve waste and recycling sector safety
The waste and recycling sector still ranks as one of the most dangerous sectors in the UK

In addition, five per cent of workers in the sector suffer non-fatal injuries annually, double the average industry rate, while a further five per cent of workers believe they suffer from work-related illnesses, including occupational lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

The HSE’s plan prioritises the reduction in the amount of cases of these diseases, as well as the amount of people killed by moving vehicles and machinery, and implores the industry to take ownership of the challenges and take the lead on implementing solutions.

What is to be done?

The HSE’s plan will take two approaches to minimising risk: engaging others to improve workplace health and safety; and ensuring effective management and control of risk.

The latter will involve working closely and sharing information with other regulators, including local authorities, National Resource Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Environment Agency (EA), with whom the HSE carried out legislation compliance checks on waste sites in the North East at the beginning of the year.

Furthermore, the HSE will be directing inspection activities and enforcement activity on risks posed by moving vehicles, engaging manufacturers of work equipment to design out safety risks, and helping SMEs to manage their health and safety proportionately and sensibly.

Regarding engagement with industry to improve workplace health and safety, the HSE focuses on encouraging further engagement and promotion for the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum, a multi-party group of organisations representing the waste and recycling industry which provides easy access to waste related health and safety guidance, with the latest guidance on monitoring waste collections released in June.

To ensure the plan’s longevity, the HSE has also proposed a review of key health and safety challenges faced by the sector in order to continue improvements through identifying new problems, solutions and further interventions in conjunction with re-energising underused solutions, while also adapting flexibly to technological development through horizon scanning and ensuring that stakeholders commit sufficient resources to allow their activities to function effectively and safely.

The plan has been welcomed by the industry, with Dr Colin Church, Chief Executive of CIWM, commenting: “Improving the industry’s health and safety record is one of CIWM’s top priorities and we are keen to support the priority actions outlined today by the HSE for the waste and recycling sector. In addition to hosting the new Waste Industry Safety & Health Forum (WISH) website, launched earlier this year to provide a one-stop-shop for all WISH guidance, CIWM is working on a number of fronts to change behaviour, improve performance, and share good practice across the sector, including an initiative in 2018 to raise awareness around personal responsibility for health and safety in the workplace.”

For more information you can consult the HSE sector plan in full.

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