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Recycling industry a "hotspot" for fatalities that the courts should take more seriously

The waste and recycling industry remains a hotspot for workplace fatalities with the law courts needing to take penalties for accidents more seriously.

This is the view of the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), which stated that the number of fatal injuries has decreased by 5% in UK industry as a whole, but risen in the waste disposal and recycling sectors.

In all, the rate of workplace deaths is at its lowest ever level, making the poor performance of the waste sector even more worrying.

HSC chair Bill Callaghan said: Waste, recycling and refuse collection continue to produce worryingly high figures on workplace accidents and fatalities. People will be aware of the safety alert we issued in the sector earlier in the year.

The industry is growing rapidly in the UK and because of environmental issues we are also facing up to; the incident rate has risen as well.

Recycling of waste and scrap suffered five fatalities in 2003/04 and while this number dropped to two in 2004/05, it has risen back up to six for the period 2005/06.

More of an emphasis is now being put on smaller firms, with the HSC working closely with the industry in an effort to spread awareness.

There has already been record levels of spending on campaigns over the last three years, website information and interaction with stakeholders to find what needs to be done and where.

Callaghan added: Each fatality is a personal tragedy but it doesnt have to be this way. Things can be changed easily through risk assessments and using appropriate equipment.

For example, the number of people struck by moving vehicles is cause for concern. But by simple actions such as using one-way systems, better lighting and pedestrian barriers, the problem can be combated. This is not expensive and can save lives.

With an average fine of under £50,000 for workplace fatalities, the HSC believes a rise in this figure will also help the situation.

We have written a letter to the Macrory Penalties Review Team [a body set up to look at penalties across all regulators] outlining the point that the courts should be taking health and safety more seriously. Its a something we feel very strongly about, Callaghan added.

Health and Safety Executive deputy chief executive Jonathan Rees added: It would be interesting to see new penalties. The courts could impose higher fines, but at the moment, they dont.


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