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Horrific Injury At Waste Recycling Plant Highlights Lack Of Safe Working System.

17th December 2013
In 2012, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) told the waste and recycling industry to “renew efforts to improve worker safety”, following a string of fatalities. Serious accidents which take place when machinery is being operated with defective, missing or overridden safety guards continue to be reported, with many subsequent injury claims being brought.

Provisional figures released by HSE for the period 1st April 2011 to the 31st March 2012 show that with an average 6 deaths per year, Waste and Recycling is a high risk industry closely followed Mining/Quarrying although comparing favourably with Construction ( average of 59 deaths).

However, with HSE considering Waste and Recycling as one of the highest risk sectors in which workers are most likely to suffer injury or ill health, there was a recorded 553 major injuries and 2577 over-3-day injuries, or nearly 400 major injuries per 100,000 employees in the same period.

Lack of regular risk assessment or neglect by employers to properly maintain their company machinery and equipment is a constantly recurring accident compensation theme. In numerous cases, workforce employees operate equipment without the use of a working guardrail, which all too often leads to terrible physical injury. Following a long period of recovery, there is a possibility of being unable to resume their former work due to constant pain or crippling disability.

A most recent horrific example took place in a Lincoln waste recycling plant where inadequate safety guards were in place. As was general practice in the plant, a 23 year old male worker was trying to clear a blockage on a metal fragmentiser assembly line by just using a stick. However, the entire right arm became caught in the moving machinery parts and was severed at the shoulder

In the HSE investigation that followed, numerous instances of neglect and failure to provide vital safety procedures were discovered. As well as inadequate or missing machinery guard rails, it was also found that there was no emergency stop buttons ( power isolation) along the assembly line and operatives had failed to be given necessary training or a safe system of work.

Pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the waste recycling plant in Scunthorpe was fined a total of £28,964 including costs.

A spokesman for the HSE said, "The waste and recycling sector has one of the worst records for injury incidents across all industries and yet the dangers of working with machinery and in the waste business are well known. Employers must ensure they take effective measures to address these risks and properly train their staff to carry out tasks safely."