Protecting Waste Industry Workers

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in conjunction with the Environment Agency, has recently carried out a series of visits to waste sites, in an attempt to improve working practices on these sites and ensure that operators are complying with all relevant legislation.

The initiative has been focused on the North East of England so far, and involves visits to sites that recycle, process or store waste metal, such as scrap vehicles and general waste metal. Operators use a variety of processes and equipment to strip, cut and burn waste to extract the key metal and components, and this work has the potential to expose workers to risks to health and safety.

Waste Workers at Risk of Injury

“An average of seven people are killed each year in the waste industry, this includes members of the public,” explained HSE Inspector Victoria Wise. “The main causes of death are people being run over or struck by a moving vehicle or something unstable collapsing on them.”

“A high number of workers in this industry are also exposed to processes that cause irreversible ill health conditions,” she added. “During the last joint initiative HSE found eight sites visited to be in significant contravention of health and safety law with seven Enforcement Notices served.”

“Joint operations such as this mean we can work alongside the Environment Agency to make sure those responsible for the sites are not exposing workers, members of the public and the environment to harm from the operations they undertake,” she concluded.

Waste Worker Run Over

The risks to workers in the waste and recycling sector are clearly highlighted in the regular reports of injury-causing incidents that the HSE is called upon to investigate.

In one recently reported case, a landfill company in Wales was given a substantial fine after a worker had to have both legs amputated as a result of an accident at work.

The worker in question was walking across the yard when he was hit by a large shovel loader. He suffered severe injuries and needed both legs amputated at the mid-thigh and was hospitalised for six-months.

The subsequent investigation by the HSE revealed that the company did not have any controls in place to protect workers from the high volume of vehicles and traffic on site. Although they had previously identified the risk and how they could prevent workers being hit by vehicles, they had not got round to putting the measures in places.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 and Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work (1974) Act. It was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,657.

Worker Sustains Serious Arm Injury

In a second incident, a young worker sustained life-changing injuries while working on a waste picking line.

The 19-year-old had been working to clear a blockage from the waste picking line, when his gloved hand got caught in the conveyor belt. The roller fractured his right hand, dislocated his wrist and radius and he had to spend two weeks in hospital following the incident.

The investigation by the HSE found that there was no effective guarding around the conveyor belt to prevent workers’ hands being caught up in the mechanism.

Following the incident, the company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,549 and a victim surcharge of £170.

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