On Tuesday, a new Royal Charter was proudly shown off by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), marking 60 years as the body helping employers and employees to understand how the workplace can bring exposure to serious ill-health (MRW.co.uk/ 8644455.article).
There is no doubt that the British factory floor is a far safer place than it was when MRW was first printed in 1912. The Health and Safety Executive’s figure for the number of workers fatally injured in 2011/12 was 173; a century earlier, it was 5,000.
These are almost certainly all ‘physical’ incidents, such as those involving faulty machinery or vehicle movements. But BOHS members are not involved in such direct risk: their specialism involves threats that are potentially just as lethal, such as airborne particles, which are also a feature of our industry.
Enzymes used in the organic sector, for example, can cause immeasurable damage if they enter the lungs. And these effects may not be obvious, or even linked to certain occupational practices, for years. No sector of the waste industry is hazard-free in this regard.
We may be an ‘old’ industry but new technologies are regularly coming on-stream and the range of health risks in the workplace has never been greater. We may yet have to learn some hard lessons from the experts as their research develops.
Without scaremongering, BOHS members are concerned that their collective voice should be heard more loudly across British industry. MRW is happy to help articulate their messages about workplace safety to the waste sector.