Cross-industry collaboration and support for small and medium sized waste businesses is needed if the sector is to improve its health and safety record, Rick Brunt, head of Agriculture, Waste and Recycling at HSE has said.
Mr Brunt said that while the industry has made significant progress, more remains to be done to improve the sector, which had the second highest work death rate of any industrial sector in the UK.
Mr Brunt spoke at the Organics Recycling Group’s (ORG) seventh annual Health and Safety in Waste Management conference at JCB Headquarters in Rochester, Staffordshire yesterday (20 July).
Presenting the Health and Safety Executive (HSE’s) new strategy for improving Britain’s health and safety policies, ‘Helping Great Britain Work Well,’ Mr Brunt said: “Great Britain has a record to be proud of, it is a world leader in terms of health and safety performance and the health and safety system.”
But there is still a way to go, Mr Brunt said. The waste and recycling sector recorded six deaths at work in 2015/16, he added, quoting statistics published by the organisation this month.
This represents a total of 5.71 deaths per 100,000 employees recorded for the year for the waste sector, ranking just behind Agriculture, which recorded the highest number of 7.37 deaths per 100,000 employees for the year.
And, commenting on the incident that killed five workers at a scrap metal recycling plant in Birmingham two weeks ago (see letsrecycle.com story), Mr Brunt said: “We already know that this year is going to be bad compared with last year.”
He added that further improvement is needed but that overly stringent measures and disproportional standards should be avoided.
“I’ve had discussions with large and small companies and they say some perform better than others, we’re all tarred with the same brush and it’s not fair,” Mr Brunt said, “But unfortunately that is the view that HSE has on the waste and recycling industry.”
Instead, health and safety measures, when implemented well, can boost Britain’s businesses big and small, Mr Brunt argued: “We think, fundamentally, that good health and safety management is actually a good part of your business.
“It makes you more efficient, more effective, more profitable— it affects your bottom line.
“It’s not about making your life difficult – it is about taking ownership of the problem and about getting businesses engaged.”