Last year there were 14 fatalities in the waste and recycling industry and 8 fatalities in 2015/16. The fatality rate in the waste and recycling industry was around 10 times the average across all industries in the 5 years leading up to March 2016. This has led the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to scrutinise the waste and recycling industry with a programme of proactive, unannounced inspections. Unannounced inspections have been underway since the 2 October and the sector is being encouraged to pay more attention to how they manage the working environment.

The HSE is now nearing completion of this inspection initiative and aims to ensure effective management and control of risk across the industry. There are a number of activities which typically result in more injuries and have been a particular focus, specifically:

  1. Workers struck by moving vehicles;
  2. Workers coming into contact with machinery; and
  3. Workers trapped by something falling or overturning.

Sector Examples from Areas of Concern

There have been a number of recent prosecutions across the three targeted work areas which further emphasise the importance of taking health and safety seriously in this industry.

1. Struck By Moving Vehicle

On the 30th October recycling company Savanna Rags International Limited was prosecuted following the death of an 89 year old worker, who was killed by a reversing delivery vehicle. The HSE found that there was no plan for segregating pedestrians and vehicles on site and there was no adequate risk assessment for vehicle movement.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching:

  • Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974;
  • Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999; and
  • Regulation 17(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

The company was fined £650,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £3300.25.

2. Contact with Machinery

Master Construction Products (Skips) Limited became the 26th company to be convicted for Corporate Manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 earlier this month.

This was following the death of a 29 year old employee who became entangled within a trommel, suffering crush injuries. The HSE investigation found that the trommel was in a “dilapidated, ramshackle and lethal state” with essential guards to prevent entrapment missing, no emergency stop button and an uneven working environment with piled up waste surrounding the machine.

A particular aggravating factor was the company's failure to act on a series of warnings including HSE letters as early as 2009 recommending the creation of specific risk assessments with immediate consideration to be given to the trommel.

The company director pleaded guilty to consenting to, or conniving with, the company’s breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 having admitted that he was aware of the way in which the company operated the trommel. The individual has been:

  • Disqualified from acting as a company director for eight years;
  • Ordered to pay £11,500 in prosecution costs; and
  • Sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, with 300 hours of community service.

3. Trapped by Something Collapsing or Overturning

Fresco Environmental Limited was prosecuted after a worker was crushed to death by a waste carpet bale which fell from a stack on top of him. The HSE found that the company had failed to ensure proper controls were in place to reduce the risk of the bales from falling, with no exclusion zones and poorly stacked bales close to vibrating machinery.

The Company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £3500.00 towards costs.

Company Director Lee Heaps was given a six-month custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months, and is to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work for his role in the offence under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was also ordered to pay £400.00 towards costs.

Conclusions

Despite this particular scrutiny, the HSE are keen to remind companies that the launch of these inspections is a good opportunity to reconsider their health and safety procedures as a whole.

Focus should also be applied to other work activities in the sector where there may be a risk to health and safety, including musculoskeletal disorders and the risk of occupational lung disease. Workers in this industry are more likely to suffer work-related illness than any other sector and there is likely to be consideration of these other areas during the HSE inspections in addition to the three key areas outlined above.

One recent example from the waste and recycling industry outside of the three main areas of concern follows the prosecution of Mr Gibson (Trading as All-Gone Waste), who was contracted on two occasions for his advertised asbestos removal service despite not having the relevant licenses.

Mr Gibson pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 8 (1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, and Regulations 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and has been fined £1500.00 and ordered to pay costs of £2657.00.

As a result of this and the examples above it is worth remembering that there does not need to be an actual fatality or injury for a prosecution to arise; there only needs to be a risk of one. In addition individuals, directors and the self-employed can all be individually prosecuted and can risk custodial sentences where there has been a breach of the law.