• International Workplace
  • 12 July 2018

HSE addresses high rate of worker fatalities in waste sector

A report published this week by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) underlines the importance of better safety management systems and awareness, and personal responsibility, in creating a stronger health and safety culture across the resource and waste management sector.

Supported by the Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM), the research, entitled ‘Common human factors underlying worker fatalities in the waste and recycling sector’, was commissioned in response to the high rate of worker fatalities in the waste and recycling sector. This rate was 15 times the average rate across all industries for the period 2008/09 to 2015/16 and human factors were identified as playing a significant role.

The study reviewed 18 fatal incidents in the sector, involving 12 SMEs and six larger companies. It included in-depth interviews with HSE inspectors involved in investigating the incidents and identified four common and interrelated human factors:

  • the heightened risk of incidents because of the lack of separation between people and hazardous machinery on site;
  • inadequate safety management systems and poor safety culture;
  • individuals having insufficient knowledge of how to plan and perform tasks safely; and
  • in relation to SMEs, inadequate instructions supplied with equipment (which can often be second hand) or inadequate risk assessment advice.

To improve performance, the report prioritises two areas for further discussion between the HSE and the industry – equipment factors (selection, design, use and maintenance) and safety management systems – with awareness raising and the sharing of good practice being part of the solution. CIWM will be actively incorporating and building on these findings in its new campaign, ‘Health and safety; this time it’s personal’.

Commenting on the research findings, CIWM’s Chief Executive, Dr Colin Church said:

“Health and safety is an ongoing priority for our sector and this welcome report will help to focus our attention on the areas where real improvement is needed. Many of the industry bodies and organisations with influence across the UK – including CIWM, ESA and WISH – have worked collaboratively to improve awareness and provide useful guidance and we know that many companies have also taken action to improve health and safety across their operations. However, there is still much more to do to reach the objective of ‘zero deaths’ agreed between the HSE and industry stakeholders.

“Visible enforcement is important and we welcome the HSE’s planned programme of proactive inspections later this year. CIWM is committed to supporting this with a behavioural change campaign to raise awareness around personal responsibility for health and safety in the workplace and embed a more robust health and safety culture across the sector.”

The full report can be found at