The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said that nearly half of the 39 fatal injuries to workers in the waste and recycling industry in the past five years were attributed to accidents involving moving vehicles or machinery.
The HSE’s latest publication on the waste sector confirms findings in its annual report released in July, which revealed there were 14 deaths in 2016-17, almost double the previous yearly average.
Further analysis now shows that, in the five years to 1 April 2017, there were nine deaths due to employees being hit by vehicles and seven from contact with machinery.
The waste industry’s average yearly fatal injury rate is 15 times greater than the rate across all industries, making it the second most dangerous sector to work in. Only agriculture, forestry and fishing has a greater fatality rate.
The HSE also found that the average yearly non-fatal injury rate in the sector reported by workers is around 5,000, half of which led to an employee being absent from work for more than three days.
This is the second highest injury rate across all UK industries.
A recent number of fatalities in the sector prompted the HSE to launch a series of unannounced inspections, running from September to the end of the year.
Two deaths earlier this year resulting from contact with recycling machinery at Bywaters and Baldwin Skip Hire led to the HSE issuing a special bulletin to the waste and recycling industry.
In response to the figures the Environmental Services Association (ESA) released a briefing outlining industry efforts to improve its record.
Stephen Freeland, Environmental Services Association (ESA) health and safety policy advisor, said: “For too long now, the waste management industry has continued to lag behind other sectors and with little indication that the overall safety record for the industry as a whole is showing any sign of meaningful improvement.
”For ESA these statistics are rather disappointing and don’t seem to reflect progress we’ve been making in recent years. In fact, our forward thinking approach to health and safety has seen ESA Members reduce injuries by 37% over the two years since 2014.
”It is nonetheless clear that the industry as a whole has much to do to reverse the trend identified in HSE’s statistics, and for its part ESA will continue to ensure best practice and ‘lessons learnt’ are disseminated more widely across the industry for the benefit of all.”
The latest HSE report was released just days after two major health and safety prosecutions, involving deaths by a vehicle and a trommel.
Savanna Rags was fined £650,000 after a 76-year-old worker was fatally injured by a reversing delivery vehicle. Master Construction Products (Skips) pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter and was fined £255,000, after an employee was crushed in a trommel. Company director Jagbir Singh was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence.
Speaking after the Savanna Rags case, HSE inspector Aaron Rashad said: “Sadly, this is the most common cause of fatal injuries in this sector. The HSE is currently in the middle of targeting waste and recycling premises with an inspection initiative that will look at certain activities to ensure effective management and control of risk.
“We are calling on anyone working in the industry to take the time to refresh their knowledge of our advice and guidance, available for free on our website. Every worker has the right to return from work safe in the knowledge that their employer takes their health and safety seriously.”
- This story was updated at 11am on 2 November to include comment from the ESA.