17th December 2013
Waste and recycling remains a high risk industry, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
HSE categorise waste collection, treatment and disposal activities, such as materials recovery, alongside wholesale removal of waste and scrap, including collecting, sorting, separating, stripping of used goods, i.e. vehicle / parts salvage.
Despite employing just over half of one per cent of the UK workforce, the waste disposal sector accounted for nearly 3 per cent of reported injuries, between 2011 and 2012. It would not be surprising to find that accident claims reflecting that 2.5 per cent were major and nearly 3 per cent, over-3-day injuries. More than 4 per cent of incidents were fatal.
Skip hire and waste transfer
Early in 2013, HSE warned the waste and recycling industry to renew efforts to improve worker safety, following an escalation of fatalities as nine workers lost their lives between June and September 2012, half of the deaths taking place in skip hire and waste transfer premises.
A Labour Force Survey indicates that waste and recycling has an average all non-fatal injury rate that is “statistically significantly higher than construction” - typically about three times the over-three-day absence injury rate.
RIDDOR figures for Waste Collection, treatment and disposal for 2011-12 report 495 major industries, up from 482 in 2010-11 and an estimated overall rate of 397 between 2004/5 and 2011/12.
Waste Collection is generally considered the most high risk of with transport accidents, often caused by reversing vehicles, along with slips and trips, lifting-related and moving injuries, and hygiene/contamination incidents.
According to RIDDOR, in a five year period (2005-12), the percentage of injury accident types were as follows:
• Slip and trips (35 per cent)
• Hit by moving, falling object (14 per cent)
• Handling (13 per cent)
• Fall (11 per cent)
• Hit by a moving vehicle (7 per cent)
• Contact with moving machinery (6 per cent)
• Contact with fixed or stationary object ( 3 per cent)
• Contact with harmful substance (1 per cent)
In the same period, “handling” accounted for 45 per cent and “slips or trips” for 26 per cent of over-three-day injuries.
Of the three specific occupations within waste and recycling – waste disposal / environmental services, street cleaners, refuge and salvage - there was an increase in the number of reported injuries by refuse and salvage employees between 2008-09, attributed to a “normal variation”.
As is prevalent in many other industries, workers are being put at risk due to a lack of thorough risk assessments, supply of functional personal protective equipment (PPE) and all mechanised/ lifting moving operations.