Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of MRW, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

HSE moves to improve "unacceptable" safety record

By John McKenna

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) this week launched a website to help the waste management and recycling industry improve its appalling record.

The site provides up-to-date information on reports and legislation affecting the industry, as well as links to trade associations and training bodies.

There is also information on the HSEs Waste Industry Safety and Health forum, a body set up to identify, devise and promote activities which can improve health and safety standards.

HSE head of manufacturing sector James Barrett insists the website is a much needed helping hand for the sector with the worst health and safety record in the UK.

He said: Of all the industries HSE monitors, the waste management and recycling industry has the highest fatal incident rate. This is simply unacceptable. I welcome this new website as a place where the industry can obtain free advice.

The HSE was told in June that it must do more to help the industry improve its dreadful employee welfare record.

An HSE-commissioned report by research firm Bomel recommended the HSE focused on influencing local authorities and companies in the sector.

Mapping health and safety standards in the UK waste industry concluded: A strategy needs to be developed for intervening with local authorities, with the intention of reducing the number of waste-related accidents in the public sector.

The regulator needs to influence health and safety management via companies head offices.

While the website is not a direct intervention to save lives, it conveniently puts all available health and safety advice together in one easily located place. As such it represents a tentative step towards the HSEs target, set by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, to reduce the number of accidents at work by 10% by 2010.

HSE figures released last month showed that the waste management and recycling sector had a fatality rate 40 times the national average between April 2001 and March 2004. There were 27.7 deaths per 100,000 employees in that three-year period, more than twice as many as in any other industry.

While agreeing such fatality rates are unacceptable, some within the industry argue that the rush to comply with a glut of European directives has pushed health and safety down the agenda.

Commenting on the problem earlier in the year, HSE head of Waste Management and Recycling Section Paul Harvey said: We have been bombarded with so many directives that we have taken our eyes off the ball on health and safety.

In the past year MRW has reported on numerous tragic deaths at recycling plants. Only last week, a 54 year-old man was killed when a large earth-moving machine reversed over him at the plant where he worked in Angus, Scotland.

In July, MRW reported the death of three workers in Thetford, Norfolk, who drowned in a 12-foot high vat of chicken waste.

The gravity of the industrys appalling track record has meant that as well as HSE launching a dedicated website, a number of bodies within the waste management and recycling sector have drawn up their own guidance for members.

In February, the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) recovered paper sector body produced a document called Guidance for the recovered paper industry: Recover paper safely.

Head of CPI health and safety Andrew Braund said: We have taken that as an action plan and it will help the industry. The key areas to focus on are balers and compactors thats where people are getting killed.

The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has also responded to the industrys high fatality rate by producing a health and safety certification scheme in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). BMRA president George Bond discusses the Passport scheme on pages 44 and 47.

And members of the Environmental Services Association have signed an Accident Reduction Charter, which promises to cut reportable accidents by 10% every yea

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.