The main contributing factors to workplace injuries are lack of designated machine space and access, use of obsolete machinery, lack of training and poor maintenance/ servicing.
Planning to avoid these factors is mostly down to common sense but that can be overlooked, even by larger organisations. Baler manufacturer Middleton has made recommendations for a safer waste management site.
Sufficient space with easy access
A well-designed site layout is crucial. Squeezing in a baler might save on floor space but it will make processing inefficient and could lead to inappropriate or unsafe loading. Space needs to be allocated for storage and vehicle movements, plus access to operating, cleaning, maintaining and servicing the equipment.
A good supplier will conduct a site survey and plan ahead to avoid costly mistakes in site layout, to create a safer and more efficient environment.
Machinery that complies with latest UK safety standards
Balers, like any heavy plant, are potentially dangerous. Even with new balers, in-built safety systems will vary and some imported machines may fall below the requirements for protective guards and safe access, depending where and when they were made.
Balers are built to last, and are often still going strong after 20 years, although they may not meet up-to-date safety standards. Second-hand and refurbished machinery needs to comply only with the standards in place at the time of manufacture, so they should be upgraded to comply with current UK standards.
Capacity is another potential risk factor: all too often balers are underpowered or overloaded because requirements have changed. Non-compliant machinery can result in repeated malfunctions and operator interventions to rectify jams. Frustration, poor operation and possibly dangerous shortcuts can be avoided.
Training to ensure safe, optimal performance
Trained and experienced operators are well equipped to manage a potentially hazardous working environment.
Middleton’s engineers have heard of all sorts of high-risk behaviour on sites involving staff who have received insufficient training. This includes cooling motors with water when there is an electrical cabinet in close proximity, an individual operating a baler on their own with no secure back-up in case of accident and operators opening electrical cabinets and pressing buttons without knowing what the buttons are for.
The quality of the conveyor, its feeding length and width are important aspects of the operation which should be fully understood by the operator.
Proper instruction with periodic refresher training is not only cost effective, resulting in fewer issues, but helps to instil safe procedures in a safe environment with competent staff working under proper supervision.
Middleton’s offers free training at the time of servicing to ensure that its customers have opportunities to train all new staff. Remote logistics monitoring enables the company to ensure the machinery operates at its optimum level. Its UK-based technical specialists are available at the end of the phone to help resolve any issues.
Regular maintenance and servicing
Many businesses rely on operators to keep baling systems in robust working order. But pressure of work, office politics, risk avoidance and fear of criticism can hinder an individual’s best intentions.
Poor cleaning and maintenance can be a huge issue. Operators may think that heavy machinery does not need much attention, but this is not the case. Apart from sophisticated electrical systems, there are places which can become jammed. Regular maintenance allows potential hazards to be identified before they cause problems.
If the alarmingly high statistics on injuries and fatalities in the waste and recycling industry fail to provoke action to rectify unsafe working practices and ensure the safety of operators, it is worth remembering that lost working days and industrial compensation are costly.
There were 25 waste and recycling prosecution cases brought by the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities last year. Most resulted in guilty verdicts, where the average fine per case was £59,500 – not to mention damage caused to an organisation’s hard-earned reputation.
It is in everyone’s best interests to work together to drive down work-related injuries.
Mark Smith is technical director at Middleton Engineering