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Biffa backs crews' behaviour

Biffa has responded to concerns from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the quality of training for collection crews by saying its in-house programme has had a marked effect.

An assertion in a recent HSE report that drivers and supervisors were undertrained in attitude and behavioural skills, and too focused on technical knowledge and skills, was challenged by Biffa, although it welcomed the report.

It also disagreed with the suggestion it was the driver’s role to discipline other crew members for health and safety failings.

The HSE report called on waste management firms to help staff develop communications and leadership skills and to take into account the crews’ complex working environment.

Biffa told MRW it been doing a lot of communication-based work with all members of municipal staff since 2011 with a substantial reduction in related incidents as a result.

Behaviour safety training is mandatory for all its staff and the company attributed a 21% reduction in Lost Time Incidents, a 40% cut in working days lost, and a 25% fall in the overall injury rate this year to its training programme.

The firm took part in the consultation for the HSE report, provided data and contributed to the workshop afterwards but was not involved in an interview process.

Biffa Group health and safety manager Claire Odd told MRW that the company thought the report could help create “some harmony”.

“Anything that allows us to have a set of tools that increase the competency of our staff and our future managers is welcomed,” she said.

But Odd said that disciplining crews for health and safety violations was the job of the supervisor, not the driver as suggested in the report.

“The driver is the lead person for health and safety and quality of service while our crew is out on the road. But supervisors have a wealth of additional training that the driver wouldn’t have in terms of how they view certain situations, how they analyse and come up with the right thing to do.

“By being removed from the situation, you take the emotion and the passion out of it and get a much better outcome.”

She added that supervisors were the “fundamental key” for sharing corporate messages with the workforce while drivers were important for communicating back to the supervisors.

The report also highlighted that supervisors sometimes felt like they did not have a voice and their knowledge and their wisdom was not listened to.

But Odd said Biffa were empowering its supervisors to decide which training, called ‘toolbox talks’, they would give to their crews as they knew “the challenges their guys were facing day in day out”.

She added that Biffa were keen to train all members of staff in leadership skills as the company liked to promote people from within.

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