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A progressive sector goes beyond targets

“A significant increase in injuries is not something any of us should take lightly – it needs to be tackled and with some urgency.”

That was the challenge laid down by Judith Hackitt, chair of the Health and Safety Executive, to the Confederation of Paper Industries’ (CPI) recovered paper sector at the organisation’s Biennial Health and Safety Conference held at the end of June.

Clearly any increase in injury rates is undesirable. But before we start beating ourselves up or changing direction, the figures need to be taken in context.

First, under the previous Paper and Board Industry Advisory Committee (Pabiac) strategy 2011-14, and at the time of setting an injury reduction target, the recovered paper sector, which includes members of the Recycling Association (RA), had an injury rate of 385 per 100,000 employees.

Second, the number of employees working in the sector within both CPI and RA membership is around 2,500. With such small margins for error, a couple of incidents – the sector measures ‘over three-day’ incapacitation – can have a significant effect on the sector’s total injury rate.

While the recovered paper sector may have ended 2014 with a 65% increase in reported injuries, it is encouraging to see that the rate fell during the first quarter of 2015 and currently stands at 439 per 100,000 employees.

But of course it is not just about tracking and reacting to high and low injury rates. There are other aspects to managing health and safety, such as focusing on the right priorities and addressing the real risks within the industry. For sustainability and continuous improvement, there needs to be a plan.

With the recently launched Pabiac strategy Health and Safety – it’s more than just a paper exercise, the UK paper sector, including recovered paper, has set three clear objectives to work towards during the next four years.  

Occupational health

Based on legal requirement, hazard analysis and level of risk present, the sector will be challenged to implement a programme to reduce work-related ill health and to specify key performance indicators at different levels of the organisation to deliver the control strategy.

Machinery safety

By June 2019, and as part of an overall industry objective, the number of contact with machinery- type accidents will be reduced by 30%. This will mean identifying guidance relevant to the process, such as Recover Paper Safely, EN standards for horizontal/vertical balers and compactors, and undertaking a gap analysis and compiling a machinery action plan prioritising areas for improvement.

Slips and trips

This is a two-part objective: by June 2019, the UK paper industry will reduce the number of slips and trips-type accidents by 30% and, during the same period, will increase the average number of slips and trips near-miss reports by 20%.

For the recovered paper sector, all three objectives are key areas for improvement. Statistics collated by the CPI show that slips and trips continue to be the biggest cause of accidents, musculoskeletal disorders are the main health issue and machinery is always a significant factor and priority.

Machine-related injuries are often lifechanging. With so much information readily available, there should be no excuse for poor procurement, sub-standard guarding and safety controls, lack of operator training or poor management systems and control.

The CPI believes that, through Pabiac, all the targets for the next four years are, at the very least, achievable. But as a progressive industry with a history of continuous improvement, we also believe that we should aspire to do better than just meeting the targets.

To do that, employers and employees must play their part, work together, build trust and have respect, and enable everyone to understand their role and responsibilities to make sure that all workers go home to their families every day.

At the end of 2019, our measure of success against these objectives will be measured not by one or two companies but as an industry. We are all in it together.  

Andrew Braund is director of health and safety at the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI)

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