Employees Pave Way for Improved Health and Safety

12 Feb 2016 17:34

An innovative and proactive approach to improved health and safety within the waste and recycling industry is being pioneered by operatives working at the sharp end.

Practices are being put in place, led by employees and employee / safety representatives themselves, to enhance employee engagement and liaison with senior management across both public and private sectors - with the sole aim of saving lives, reducing accidents and ill health.

The waste and recycling industry has one of the UK’s highest fatality and serious injury rates of all industry sectors and much work has been done over the past five years to reduce this figure. 

But now the Health & Safety Executive, Waste Industry Safety & Health forum (WISH) and colleagues from both private and public sector have embarked on a number of ambitious projects to tackle the worryingly high figures.

With the ambitious aim to achieve a 10% year-on-year reduction on RIDDOR-reported accidents and a zero death rate in the industry, WISH established project groups addressing;

            •          Management and leadership

            •          Employee engagement

            •          Safer workplaces

            •          Building competency

            •          Creating healthier workplaces

            •          Providing support for SMEs.

Employee / Safety representatives from all over the UK attended a workshop held at GMB Offices in London, to work through the realities faced in their daily routine, share experiences and identify good practice; all with one clear objective – to identify how employee engagement with health and safety can be improved within the waste & recycling industry.

Following on from the success of the Health and Safety Leadership Tool which helps leaders and senior managers of organisations identify improvements in health and safety performance, culture and their own leadership behaviours it was recognised that improvements in employee engagement were also required.

The main areas of employee engagement identified through the workshop as opportunities for improvement are

            •          Communication

            •          Visibility

            •          Workforce Attitudes

            •          Opportunities to Contribute

The workshop was a pioneering move in itself bringing together so many representatives from across all sectors of the waste and recycling industry.

Operatives who work directly at an operational level on the vehicles, tip sites, weighbridges and similar gave a flavour of working realities and relationships with more senior management to identify challenges and opportunities – with communication at an appropriate, regular and relevant level being key.

The feedback and outcomes from the workshop will help inform and develop a similar tool for organisations to improve employee engagement across all sectors of the waste industry – bottom-up.

Janet Viney - HSE

We have had an excellent  response  from across the industry and our task now is to harness the commitment and enthusiasm and move forward to develop a workable solution to improve employee engagement.

John McClean – GMB Trade Union

There's no getting away from the fact it's a dangerous industry. We wanted to learn from their expertise; they're the ones at the sharp end who know the pressures and the risks. And we wanted them to share that expertise to identify the good practices which make sense and work on the ground. From that perspective alone the exercise has already proved to be a great success and I have no doubt that they share all of our determination to cut accidents and fatalities to zero.

Sarah Golemblewski Health & Safety Manager – North Kesteven District Council - Public Sector

What really came across was the level of enthusiasm and engagement. To be in a room with so many people so committed to health and safety was really encouraging and the fact their companies and organisations sent them shows their level of commitment too. It's clear that they all want to be a part of driving this forward.

Paul Stokes – Head of SHEQ -  FCC Environment UK – Private Sector

In defining a new positive, proactive culture, we were all agreed that the safety agenda has to be driven, partly from the top, partly from the bottom, with improvements in relationships from top to bottom.


Despite the good work already underway, in the past five years there have been 37 fatalities within the water & waste industry sector - 33 of them in the waste sector.

Five of these were in 2014/15, all within waste.

Nine involved being struck by moving vehicles, and a further five through context with machinery

The sector accounts for 170,000 people; around 0.6% of the UK workforce.

Fatality rates within the water & waste sector since 2010 has been between five and ten times higher than the 'all industry' rate, at 2,04 fatalities per 100,000 employees.

In waste alone the rate in 2014/15 was 3.64 per 100,000 employees, fluctuating annually at between five and 20 times the 'all industry' rate.

Every year around 6,000 workers in waste & water sustain a non-fatal injury at work– most (around 5,000 ) are among waste workers.

Within the waste sector 4.1% of works sustained a workplace industry over the past five years – a rate more than twice the 'all-industry' rate of 2.0% and much greater than water & waste's combined 2.6%.

Most long-term 'specified' injuries (70%)are caused by slips, trips or falls, falling from height or bring struck by an object.

Lifting and handling are responsible for a third (36%) of over-seven-day injuries, and slipped, trips and falls 27%.

More than 95% of the sector's work days lost in a year through injury - averaging unto 145,000 - occur within the waste spectrum. This gives an average of 0.7 days per worker compared with 0.17 days across all industries.

The waste sections account for more than 90% of days lost through illness across the watt & waste sector; unto 1.9 days per worker against 0.8 across all industry.

Injury statistics for Waste Sector:

  • HSE have a number of ways of measuring the scale of workplace injury.
  • Over the last five years official statistics show there have been 33 worker fatalities in the waste sector, representing a rate of 5.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers.  Putting this number in context, the fatal injury rate in the waste sector is over 10 times greater than the rate across all industries and almost three times greater than the rate in the construction sector. (Source: RIDDOR)
  • HSE’s best estimate of the total scale of non-fatal workplace injury suggests there has been an average of 5,000 workers injured by their work in each of the last five years in the waste sector.   (This estimate includes all workplace injuries, not just those meeting RIDDOR reporting criteria).  This is equivalent to 4.1% of workers sustaining a non-fatal workplace injury in the sector each year and is higher than the average rate across all industries (2.0%).  It compares with a rate of 3.0% in the construction sector. (Source: Labour Force Survey)
  • Despite the relatively higher rate of non-fatal injury in the waste sector, HSE statistics provide possible indications that performance in the sector is improving.  RIDDOR notifications of reportable non-fatal injury have fallen over the last three years with a reduction in the rate of reportable non-fatal injuries in this period.  (Source: RIDDOR)

The Waste sector is defined by Division 38 within the 2007 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)

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