The number of fatal injuries to workers in the waste sector in 2016/17 was 14, almost double the average for the past five years (eight), according to the newly published Health & Safety Executive (HSE) figures.
While fatality numbers in the sector have fluctuated in recent years, this increase in the current year is largely explained by a single incident at a scrap metal facility, which resulted in 5 deaths in 2016/17, the HSE said.
The incident at Shredmet Limited in Birmingham (pictured) in 2016 resulted five fatalities after a partition wall collapsed.
The HSE statistics find the most common occurrences of fatality in the sector are caused by being struck by a moving vehicle (23%), followed by contact with machinery (18%), followed by being struck by an object (15%).
This brings the total number of fatal injuries to workers in the waste sector over the last five years to 39.
Of the main industry sectors, only agriculture had a higher fatal injury rate over this period.
Over the five years to 2016/17 there were 11 fatal injuries to members of the public arising from work activities in the waste sector. Over the past two years, there have been no fatal injuries to members of the public, however.
The fatal injury rate to workers in the waste sector was 6.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This is around 15 times greater than the rate across all industries over this five-year period and over three times greater than the rate in the construction sector, the HSE says.
5,000 non-fatal injuries occur each year in the sector and 6,000 people suffer from work related illness each year.
Around 4.0% of workers in the waste sector in GB sustained a workplace injury. This rate is statistically significantly higher than the rate for workers across all industries (1.9%).
Little Sign Of Improvement
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) says the new figures show “little sign of improvement”.
Stephen Freeland, ESA’s H&S Policy Advisor said: “For too long now, the waste management industry has continued to lag behind other sectors and with little indication that the overall safety record for the industry as a whole is showing any sign of meaningful improvement.
“For ESA these statistics are rather disappointing and don’t seem to reflect progress we’ve been making in recent years.
ESA – “For ESA these statistics are rather disappointing and don’t seem to reflect progress we’ve been making in recent years.”
“In fact, our forward thinking approach to health and safety has seen ESA Members reduce injuries by 37% over the two years since 2014.
“It is nonetheless clear that the industry as a whole has much to do to reverse the trend identified in HSE’s statistics, and for its part ESA will continue to ensure best practice and ‘lessons learnt’ are disseminated more widely across the industry for the benefit of all.
“To accompany HSE’s press release, ESA has prepared a briefing explaining its approach to health and safety and the progress achieved in recent years.”
Still Work To Do
Overall, the figures show 1.3m workers were suffering from work related ill-health and there were 609,000 workplace injuries in 2016/17.
The figures show that while Britain remains one of the safest places to work, there is still work to do to drive figures down.
Workplace injury and new cases of ill health cost Britain £14.9bn a year with 31.2m working days lost.
Martin Temple, HSE chair – “These latest figures should act as a spur to reduce the impact of ill-health and injury on Britain’s workforce and businesses and we cannot rest on our reputation.”
The annual statistics, compiled by HSE from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and other sources, cover work-related ill health, workplace injuries, working days lost, costs to Britain and enforcement action taken.
Top line statistics show that in 2016/17 there were:
- 137 fatal injuries in Britain’s workplaces
- 70,116 other injuries reported by employers
- 12,000 lung disease deaths estimated to be linked to past work exposures
- 554 cases prosecuted with fines from convictions totalling £69.9m
Martin Temple, HSE chair, said of the findings: “These latest figures should act as a spur to reduce the impact of ill-health and injury on Britain’s workforce and businesses and we cannot rest on our reputation.
“We will only achieve long term improvement by a collective approach to improve workplace standards. Poor standards lead to poor health and increased injuries which is bad for the workforce and business.”
Though there were fewer prosecutions taken in 2016/17, the statistics show an increase in fines to £69.9m from the 2015/16 total of £38.8m. New sentencing guidelines in England and Wales were introduced in 2016. Twenty large fines accounted for £30.7m of the new figure.
The HSE recently published its priority areas for the waste and recycling sector in a major new publication.