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Health & safety

Ensuring employees stay safe and sound

Health & safety has particular importance for waste management which has historically fared badly when it comes to injury rates and fatalities. Chris James emphasises the role training can play in raising standards.

Chris James, CEO WAMITAB


HE MEDIA loves a ‘health & safety gone mad’ story but, as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) revealed in December last year, they usually bear no resemblance to actual legislation.

The HSE’s Myth Busters Challenge Panel released a list of the 10 most ridiculous healthy and safety excuses of 2012, which included bans on yo-yos in playgrounds, knives in kitchens, and the sale of knitting needles in a charity shop - all of which were wrongly blamed on workplace safety laws. Judith Hackett, chair of HSE and the

Myth Busters panel, said: “Not only do the jobsworths who make these ridiculous edicts waste time and money, and interfere needlessly with harmless activities, they also undermine our efforts to reduce the number of people made ill, injured, or killed by their work.” These sorts of stories can raise a smile

and provoke a good natured discussion at the water cooler, but health & safety in the workplace, and particularly in the waste management sector, is no laughing matter. When reviewing its 2011-2012 statistics

on waste and recycling, the HSE concluded that there is a general downward trend in the rate of injury over the last eight years, but there is also significant year-to-year variation, especially in the number of fatalities, and that injury numbers have been falling for the last four years or longer. While this is encouraging, waste and recycling remains a high risk industry. Although it only accounts for about 0.6% of the employees in Britain, it still accounts for 2.8% of reported injuries to

employees (4.2% fatalities, 2.5% major and 2.9% of over three-day injuries).

Waste and recycling in 2011-2012 • There were six fatal injuries to workers, one of which happened to a self-employed person. This compares with an average of eight over the previous five years (RIDDOR)

• There was one fatal injury to a member of the public, compared to an average of two a year over the previous five years (RIDDOR)

• The rate of reported over three-day injury is almost five times that in agriculture or construction (RIDDOR)

• Almost a third of the fatalities (29%) are due to employees being struck by vehicles (RIDDOR)

• About a third (35%) of reported major injuries are due to slips and trips (RIDDOR)

• Almost half (45%) of reported over three- day injuries are due to handling (RIDDOR) While any reductions are pleasing, one

injury or fatality is still one too many, and health & safety training can make a big difference in protecting people against the risks involved.

Legalities and standards All employees should receive adequate health & safety training when they join an organisation, and when exposed to new or increased risks. Some sites licensed under the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 also have specific requirements when it comes to qualifications, such as certain members of staff must hold a Certificate of Technical Competence. Anyone training in this sector must be

aware of the appropriate legislation and guidance relevant to the particular subject matter covered by the training in question, and other legislation that is likely to apply across

the sector including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. ‘Regulation 3’ of this latter document is

particularly important to employers as it requires a general assessment of all risks to health arising from work. The aim of assessment is to establish an effective system of ‘preventative and protective measures’ to safeguard employees, taking special account of any particular risks to young people. The provision of relevant, and, importantly,

on-going, training is therefore a must. Slips, trips and falls; personal protective

equipment; manual handling; workplace transport; and legislation and responsibilities are key areas for waste management health and safety training as they relate to the primary causes of accidents in the waste management and recycling industries.

Demonstrating competency levels Every WAMITAB qualification contains at least one unit devoted to health & safety to give all employees, from operatives through to senior managers, the opportunity to demonstrate the competency levels appropriate to their job roles. For companies working in the waste

management and recycling sectors, there are three essential principles: • Strong and active leadership from the top • Visible, active commitment from the board

• Effective systems for communication • Integration of good health & safety management with business decisions.

• Promote worker involvement • Engage the workforce to effect safe and healthy conditions

• Effective ‘upward’ communication • Provide high quality training and ensure competence.

• Assessment and review • Identifying and managing health and safety risks

• Accessing (and following) competent advice

• Monitoring, reporting and reviewing performance.

Waste of time? Dorset Action on Safety and Health (DASH) was set up to develop industry-specific solutions to the problem of illnesses and injuries, and the unacceptable levels of fatalities and RIDDOR reported accidents in the waste and recycling industry. The programme that was subsequently

put together to address these issues is called A Waste of Time, and it was developed by managers in the waste and recycling industries, with WAMITAB advising on the content.

Induction programme The induction programme covers seven key areas: • Health and safety law • Safe collection of refuse and recycling • Safety features on RCVs/compaction and lifting equipment

• Safe work at landfill, transfer stations and on rounds

• Reversing assistant training • Manual handling • Accident/incident/near miss reporting and RIDDOR. WAMITAB was delighted to be involved in

this project because we could see the potential benefits for the wider industry. The programme uses real-life examples that

operatives can relate to, in order to advance their skills and understanding of health and safety issues. Candidates who complete the programme successfully can gain a WAMITAB certificate which provides unit evidence for our level 2 vocational programmes.

WISH Competence Group WAMITAB’s involvement in this crucial area is continuing to develop - as I have been asked to chair the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Competence Group. This forum, facilitated and managed by the HSE, seeks to identify, devise and promote activities to improve industry health and safety standards and I am very proud to be involved. Waste and resource management activities

are increasingly being recognised as a priority for today’s society as there is increasing emphasis on minimising waste, extracting greater value from waste through recycling, and producing energy from waste. The future prosperity of the UK relies on

many things, and the development of our circular economy is set to play a crucial part. However, in order to ensure that it does,

it must have the correctly skilled and trained employees to help it succeed. By providing clear and consistent health

and safety training, waste management and recycling employers not only show a commitment to the well-being of their staff, they also demonstrate their professionalism and dedication to making this sector a safer, more successful place in which to work - both now and in the future.

Recycling & WA S T E W O R L D www. r e c y c l i n gwa s t ewo r l d . c o . u k

• For more details, visit September 19 2013



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