Waste management is a risky business, both financially as well as to workers’ health. Fires break out at sites across the UK on a weekly basis, potentially leaving owners with a large bill. And as well as having the worst fatality rate of all sectors, work-related illness is also one of the highest.
Has your firm been affected by a waste fire?
Length of disruption due to fire*
These results indicate that around two in three people working in the industry will have been affected in some way by an outbreak of fire – a shocking figure and one that surely cannot be matched by any other sector.
The survey measures individuals’ opinions and experiences, so it does not show the total number of companies or sites hit by fire. But as regular MRW readers will know, waste fires are almost a weekly occurrence across the UK, particularly during the summer.
We also have an indication of how much time and effort is put in to deal with the aftermath. A quarter of respondents reported minimal or no disruption, with some saying that disaster had been prevented by “good planning and preparedness” or that a fire had been “caught early and managed”. Others were able to divert material to another facility and keep the show on the road.
But then we find that another quarter say that disruptions to the business lasted from a week to up to six months, and a significant number said for longer than six months. Follow-up research on the cost to waste businesses would make for very interesting reading.
Meanwhile, efforts by the Environment Agency to agree with industry and implement updated fire protection plans are ongoing.
Have you been asked by your local authority or your landlord about whether you have insurance cover for first-party clean-up following a loss or catastrophe?
On a scale from one to four, how concerned are you about the level of absences from work due to work-related stress or injury at your firm?
Waste business have a great deal of responsibility to keep their sites environmentally intact. This result is an indication that at least one in 10 of respondents have had to deal with the financial fall-out from an event such as a fire. The National Fire Chiefs Council says there are around 300 significant fires each year at regulated and non-regulated waste sites. Not only is there the risk from toxic smoke plumes, but also from contamination due to surface water run-off and hazardous waste and residues.
It is surprising that more than two-thirds of respondents were on the bottom half of the scale of concern. The waste sector has one of the highest injury and stress rates. According to the Health and Safety Executive, around 6,000 workers a year suffer from a work-related illness and 80% of these were due to stress, anxiety, depression or musculoskeletal disorder (80%).
There appears to be a significant split between non-managers and those higher up the command chain. Thirty-three per cent of non-managers chose the top two points on the scale, but this figure drops to 26% for managers, directors and chief executives.
Furthermore, no chief executive or director listed the issue of work-related stress and injury at the highest point in the scale of ‘very concerned indeed’ and just under half said they were ‘not concerned at all’. Perhaps this is an indication that management needs to listen more to their staff?
* Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding