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Recycling overtakes mining as most dangerous industry to work in

By John McKenna

Recycling has become the most dangerous industry to work in.

Figures released this week by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that recycling of scrap and waste has overtaken mining as the industry where employees are most likely to sustain a major injury.

In 2002/3, its reported rate of major injury was 539.6 per 100,000 employees and was the second worse offending industry to mining.

However, recyclings accident rate rocketed in 2003/4 to 797.7 per 100,000 employees to take it beyond mining, which increased at a slower rate.

These statistics follow gruesome fatality figures released in July by the HSE that showed the industry had the highest rate of fatal injuries to employees between 2001 and 2004, standing at almost 40 times the national average.

And even these statistics do not even tell the full story of recycling and waste managements trouble with health and safety.

According to HSE head of waste management and recycling Paul Harvey: Our Mapping Health and Safety study showed that most accidents occur in collection. However, the figures for recycling of scrap and waste are only used to classify accidents in the recycling of materials. Accidents involved in kerbside collections are not included.

Earlier this month, Biffa employee David Gregory, 32, was killed after becoming stuck under the wheels of one of its collection vehicles.

Based on the recommendations of Mapping Health and Safety Standards in the UK Waste Industry, published in June, the HSE has concentrated its efforts on improving health and safety in the collection of waste.


Harvey said: We now have an inspection initiative of local authorities and companies. We are also working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the devolved assemblies so that we are joined up in our thinking.

The HSE also launched a dedicated waste website in September and Harvey revealed it was working to influence local authority contract officers, so that those companies that win tenders have exemplary health and safety records.

Harvey added that none of the current statistics included accidents involving members of the public.

A figure for the total number of injuries (fatal or otherwise) across the whole recycling and waste management industry does not exist.

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