Design waste collection systems with health and safety in mind – HSE

Waste collection systems in the UK must be designed with health and safety in mind, as well as environmental targets, cost and local availability, according to a new report.

A new report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers a comparative analysis of manual handling practices in kerbside collection of recyclable waste.

It offers a number of recommendations based on its findings around collection systems, vehicle design and recycling container design.

It found waste collection systems must be designed “as a whole”, taking account of the range of relevant factors, including environmental targets, cost and local availability, as well as health and safety, to “make a balanced decision on the most appropriate system for a locality”.

Government targets for reducing waste going to landfill have led to an increase in the processing of domestic waste to reclaim recyclable materials, , the HSE says.

The waste management industry needs to capture the key features of best equipment design in a “design principles” document that would form an industry benchmark for designers and customers.

It says, manual sorting tasks can occur at the kerbside during waste collection and, if poorly designed, can introduce manual handling risks.

The report describes research that aims to better understand the kerbside collection and sorting methods currently employed by the waste industry and to determine how manual handling risks can best be reduced or controlled.

Six detailed case studies are presented showing a range of vehicles and processes in operation.

Manual handing risks were influenced by both vehicle and waste collection container design and some encouraged poor handling approaches, it says.


The researchers made recommendations that the waste management industry capture the key features of best equipment design in a “design principles” document that would form an industry benchmark for designers and customers.

It also said the vehicle industry needs to continue to seek to design out manual handling risks before new waste collection vehicles enter widespread use.

Other recommendations for collection systems include writing tender specifications for recycling contracts to refer to the need to reduce health and safety risks in general and risks from manual handling in particular; designing systems to influence crews to behave more safely and to consider “psychosocial risk factors”.

Vehicle design recommendations include seeking to set the loading height below elbow height; seeking to increase the width of narrow compartments to permit the horizontal emptying of kerbside boxes; considering an innovation to allow boxes to be hung from flaps of vehicle compartments that contain lifting mechanisms.

Recycling container design recommendations include exploring the redesign of grab rims on kerbside boxes to see if it is possible to improve the quality of the grip; and exploring the scope for redesigning food caddies to reduce the risks of handling them.

The report follows a study into musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) published earlier this year which urged council to discontinue “box type” recycling collections as a “matter of urgency”.

The research suggested wheeled bin-based servicesare associated with fewer MSD outcomes than services including boxes, baskets and sacks.

For the full HSE report, click here.

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