A search on health and safety on MRW’s website brings up several articles on fatalities and injuries relating to breaches of health and safety regulations in recent times. Inevitably these involve incidents with heavy machinery, be it moving vehicles or machinery.
It makes for grim reading: a driver crushed to death by his own vehicle on which the handbrake was left off; an operative seriously injured when his arm was caught in a conveyor for which the conveyor guards had not been maintained; a worker run over by a reversing telehandler.
The companies involved in these cases were found to have breached health and safety regulations; had they implemented suitable risk assessments and appropriate measures, the incidents may not have happened.
Chris Jones, chair of the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) forum says there have been a number of deaths in the industry associated with collection activity as well as workplace transport on sites, at transfer stations and so on.“We keep looking at [the relevant] guidance and, frankly, there is nothing wrong with the guidance – people have just got to follow it,” he says.
WISH is currently revising its Waste 04 guidance, which should be published early in the summer. In particular the reversing vehicle guidance is being updated to take into account feedback and the fact that newer safety systems and alarms are available for vehicles.
Jones says that the “general premise” of the reversing guidance has not changed: WISH does not want to see the use of banksmen – people standing behind the vehicle giving instructions to him or her. He says: “The driver now should have enough reversing aids to do it on his own. The key thing is keeping people out of the area.
“As an industry, years ago we made the decision that we would have what we now call reversing assistants – their job is to simply exclude people from the area. So if a vehicle was reversing into a cul de sac to do a turnaround, you would station your reversing assistants at the entrance to the cul de sac to stop pedestrians coming in while the vehicle makes a manoeuvre. All of the WISH guidance has the same principal: if you don’t have somebody there, they can’t get hurt.”
As part of its normal review process, WISH renews its guidance each year. It is also currently going through each guidance document to make them more digestible and user-friendly. Jones explains that some of its guidance documents are very long – Waste 04 was 90-odd pages – making it hard to take in.
“We are breaking them into smaller pieces of guidance – 20 pages or so – then attaching a series of information sheets or appendices dealing with specific subjects,” he explains. “So instead of having to read the whole of Waste 04 to find a particular bit about single-man collections, you can go to the bit that you need. This is in response to the fact that lots of people like our guidance but sometimes say that it is just too long to find what they are looking for.
“We needed desperately to break down Waste 04 – and in doing so we needed to cover some subjects in more detail. For example, single-man collections had one paragraph in the older version but in the newer one it has several pages.”
This will cover what parameters should be put around single-man collections such as when they should be allowed, when they should not and what you should be doing if you are going to carry out a single-man collection.
But while guidance is obviously important, acting on it is critical, says Jones. “One of the things the industry needs to face up to is that it can be quite immature. Things like behavioural safety, getting people to do the right thing first time, every time – we need to invest more time and effort into that.
“Don’t just have nice-sounding documents on your websites. You can write all the policies and procedures you want, you can even give all the training you like. [The key] is what people do: how they manage people, the day-to-day behaviours that make the difference.
“People and machines can work together safely – they do it in the logistics sector all the time and they don’t have the kind of injury rates that we do. It is perfectly possible – you have just got to do it.”
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