A slight improvement in fatalities has been shown in the latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures for waste and recycling, but an industry expert says there is “no room for complacency”.
According to the HSE’s 2011/2012 statistics, there were six fatalities last year, compared to an average of eight over the previous five years.
Steve Lee, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Mangement (CIWM), pointed out that the nine deaths within the waste and recycling industry over the summer of 2012 were not reflected in the current HSE figures.
The HSE report said there was a “significant year-to-year variation… in the number of fatalities” and the most likely cause of death was being hit by a moving vehicle.
As the table above shows, the number of of non-fatal injuries in 2010/11 was 3,118 and during 2011/12 this rose slightly to 3,130 - an increase of 0.4%. (This figure is estimated because of changes to the HSE’s reporting system in September 2011.)
But rates of injury have been in a downward trend for the past eight years, with a decrease of about 13% in the last year. The rates calculated by the HSE take into account the number of people working in the industry (the number of reported injuries per 100,000 employees).
A third of a major injuries over the last five years were caused by a slip or trip - more likely in the icy December or January - and the other main causes were falling or moving objects, handling injuries, and falls.
Almost half of all three-day injuries - when a employee was off work for three days - were caused by handling, which includes sprains and strains, carrying, trapped fingers, and cuts from sharp objects.
High risk industry
Waste and recycling remains a high risk industry. The industry employs 0.6% of workers in Britain, but accounts for 2.8% of reported injuries and 4.2% of reported fatalities.
In comparison to agriculture and construction, which are also considered high risk by the HSE, the waste and recycling industry accounts for almost five times as many three-day injuries.
Lee commented: “Health and safety is of paramount importance, and we welcome the reported reduction in both non-fatal and fatal injuries compared to previous years in the waste and recycling sector.
“However, the unfortunate fatalities reported in the past few months, coupled with refuse and salvage showing the second highest overall injury rate of any occupation, demonstrate that there is no room for complacency.
“We must all continue to work together, through the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) forum and other initiatives, to maintain a strong focus on improving awareness, skills and practices across the industry.