Health and Safety Executive Freedom of Information request reveals that 43 percent of waste and recycling sites have breached health and safety rules

A Freedom of Information1 (FoI) request has revealed that as part of the Waste and Recycling Sector Workplan 2022-2023 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited 610 waste and recycling sites between October 2022 and the 20th March 2023 (approximately 20 percent over the planned site visits outlined in the original plan). 

Out of the 610 sites visited, the FoI revealed that there was a material breach rate of 43 percent, meaning that over 260 waste and recycling sites contravened current health and safety rules. 

The Waste and Recycling Sector Workplan was implemented in late 2022 as the waste and recycling was considered a high-risk sector, with one of the highest rates of workplace injury and work-related ill-health across all industries. The HSE proposed to visit 500 sites in targeted inspections between October 2022 and March 2023. The main focus of these targeted inspections was to target machinery guarding and workplace transport as these two areas accounted for a majority of the serious workplace accidents in the sector. 

Indeed, the FoI also revealed that over a five-year period (2017/18-2021/22) there were 27 worker deaths in the industry, of which 10 were due to being struck by a moving vehicle. In the same period there were 8,026 reported non-fatal injuries of which 445 were reported as due to being struck by a moving vehicle. These are big numbers and although the waste the recycling industry has made huge strides in the last few years, it is clear that there remains plenty of work to be done, as David Thomas, General Manager at ZoneSafe explains. 

“This FoI request has highlighted how the waste and recycling sector remains a dangerous place for workers, and despite the significant strides forward that the industry has made, there is still work to be done, particularly around moving vehicles. 

“We know that the number of industrial vehicles including forklift trucks, HGVs and shovel loaders operating within the sector are risk factors for pedestrian/vehicle collisions. The FoI stats show the number of fatalities and injuries caused every year are considerable and concerningly 43 percent of the 610 sites visits are continuing to contravene current health and safety rules. 

“Vehicle collisions are often caused by insufficient segregation of pedestrians and vehicles. The HSE continues to recommend total segregation where possible, but on busy waste and recycling sites this can be difficult to achieve. However, proximity warning systems can make a difference, by providing greater awareness of where vehicles/pedestrians are. 

“Dual detection of approaching workers and vehicles means that the potential risk of collision is greatly reduced. By alerting drivers and workers of the dangers around obstacles, in blind spots or areas of poor visibility, waste and recycling companies can maximise safety, as well as ensuring adherence to safety legislation and avoid the associated hefty fines. 

“There have been great steps forward by the waste and recycling sector in terms of increasing safety at sites. However, the very nature of the sector and the number of moving vehicles and pedestrians on sites means that there is always going to be potential for accidents. By utilising innovative safety solutions, such as proximity warning systems, companies can drastically reduce the potential for accidents,” concluded Thomas.

1 Freedom of Information request submitted 13th March 2023 by Avonwood, information received 20th March 2023

Associated Businesses

  • ZoneSafe: A Safer Workplace, A Safer WorkforceZoneSafe Proximity Warning Systems, manufactured by Avonwood Developments Ltd, provide a range of practical safety solutions to help reduce accidents, collisions, and serious near...