Local authority waste and recycling employees take almost double the amount of sick days compared to those in the private sector.
A report published by the Health and Safety Executive has found that the average number of days absence by workers at local authorities was 12.8 per person per year and 13.2 days for those recorded as drivers, loaders or operators. Private sector employees took just seven days off sick.
However, the report stresses that due to variations in the way different organisations record data regarding sickness absence, and the small number of organisations that record this data, the estimates may not be accurate. For this reason the Waste Industry Health and Safety Forum (WISH) in association with WISH member Local Government Employers have devised metrics to produce a consistent method of recording absence and sickness in waste and recycling sectors provided both by public and private organisations.
LGE national health and safety policy advisor Steve Sumner said: We hope to be rolling the system out over the next financial year and the data will be collected on an annual basis. We are particularly interested in reducing those absences associated with the job and reducing the number of days lost. We clearly recognise that with the expansion of the waste and recycling industry, we need to get to grips with health and safety to ensure that risks are managed effectively.
Sixteen local authorities and two private companies provided data for the report, which was compared with the 2007 Local Government Employers Absence survey. This document reported an average sick day rate of 9.6 days, suggesting waste and recycling employees have more days absent than other public sector employees.
Additionally, the most frequently reported reasons for absence were musculo-skeletal disorders mainly relating to back problems - and stress or depression.
A series of events across the UK at the beginning of 2010 will be used to launch new procurement guidance developed by HSE in association with other WISH stakeholders intended to highlight good practice, ensuring that health and safety issues are given proper and adequate consideration in the procurement of waste and recycling services.