A waste sector plan launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in September focused on the dangers posed by moving vehicles or machinery. With the latest publication on workplace fatal injuries to employees, we now know why.
Nearly half of the 39 fatal injuries to workers in the waste and recycling industry during the past five years to April 2017 were attributed to these kinds of accidents. During this period, there were nine deaths from employees from being hit by vehicles and seven from contact with machinery.
The HSE’s latest publication confirms findings in its annual report released in July, which found there were 14 deaths in 2016-17, almost double the previous yearly average.
The waste industry’s average yearly fatal injury rate is 15 times greater than the rate across all industries, and is the second most dangerous sector. Only agriculture, forestry and fishing is 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.
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) said the latest figures made for “sobering reading”. In response, the association released a briefing outlining industry efforts to improve its record, and promised further in-depth analysis of injury data.
Stephen Freeland, ESA health and safety policy advisor, said: “For too long now, the waste management sector has continued to lag behind others. [There is] little indication that the safety record for the industry is showing any sign of meaningful improvement.
“For the ESA, these statistics are rather disappointing and do not seem to reflect progress we have been making in recent years. In fact, our forward thinking approach to health and safety has seen ESA members reduce injuries by 37% in the two years since 2014.
“It is nonetheless clear that the industry has much to do to reverse the trend.”
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 industry. And in September it laun-ched a series of unannounced inspections, running to the end of the year.
The 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. And 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. We are 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 people in the sector to take the time to refresh their knowledge of our advice and guidance, available free on our website.”
Extract from the ESA’s health and safety briefing
“One key aspect that is not evident from the HSE’s data release is that health and safety performance varies considerably within the waste and recycling industry. Ours is probably one of the most complex and diverse of all the UK’s industrial sectors, and it is arguably this sheer diversity that helps explain, in part, why its health and safety record lags behind others.
“ESA data reveals that its members, which account for more than a third of all those employed in the industry, have achieved a 37% reduction in injuries since 2014. While we clearly still have much to do on our journey towards zero harm and while our injury rate remains higher than other industries, we are nonetheless striving to head in the right direction.
“The ESA will shortly publish a report offering a more in-depth analysis of available injury data and exploring some of the underlying trends. This will offer recommendations for how best practice can be replicated across the sector so that standards are raised for all.”