The number of enforcement actions issued to waste management companies by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has shot up 43% within a year.
The HSE’s annual report on workplace health and safety revealed that 420 improvement notices and 117 prohibition notices were served in 2017-18. In 2016-17 the number of improvement and prohibition notices combined stood at 373.
The HSE prosecuted 29 waste firms in 2017-18, 27 of which ended in a guilty verdict for at least one offence.
Despite the increase in prosecutions during the previous year, overall fines decreased from £3.4m in 2016-17 to £2.8m in 2017-18.
The rising amount of enforcement action is a result of a waste sector inspection campaign that ran from from October to December 2017, in response to a series of accidents and workplace fatalities involving moving machinery and vehicles.
Inspections were undertaken at around 600 sites. Forty-eight per cent of these were issued with notices after inspectors discovered ’uncontrolled risks’ and 60% of all enforcement notices were for risks associated with machinery and transport.
Another campaign is currently being run.
As has previously been reported by the HSE, there were 12 fatal injuries in 2017-18.
Around 3.9% of workers in the waste sector sustained a workplace injury during the same time period. The HSE said this was statistically significantly higher than the rate for workers across all industries, which stands at 1.9%.
Environmental Services Association (ESA) policy adviser Stephen Freeland said the HSE was right to put industry’s health and safety performance under the spotlight.
”While the report shows that the waste industry continues to fall behind other industrial sectors, the reported 11% reduction in RIDDOR-reportable injuries is nonetheless a welcome step in the right direction, and represents the single largest annual decrease in recent years.
”The ESA’s own RIDDOR statistics show that our members continue to fare better than the waste sector as whole. We are in the process of a planned revision of our Accident Reduction Charter, with a new set of targets to help bring about a further improvement in our performance.”