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Protecting Waste Sector Workers

A new initiative by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), run in conjunction with the Environment Agency, is targeting waste and recycling sites to improve working practices on regulated sites and ensure they are complying with legislation.

Focus on Health and Safety

The joint initiative, named Operation Hercules, focuses on sites that recycle, process or store waste, from scrap vehicles to general household waste. Operators use a variety of processes and equipment to store, sort and process waste that have the potential to expose workers to risks to health and safety.
The aim of these visits is two-fold; to make sure the sites are operating within the conditions of their Environmental Permit to protect the environment and community, while ensuring the health and safety of workers isn’t put at risk.

Protecting Workers

“In the last five years 39 workers and 11 members of the public have been killed because of work activity in the sector,” explained HSE Inspector Victoria Wise. “The main causes of death are people being run over or struck by a moving vehicle. A high number of workers in this industry are also exposed to processes that cause irreversible ill health conditions.”
“Joint operations such as this mean we can work alongside the Environment Agency to make sure those responsible for the sites are not exposing workers, members of the public and the environment to harm from the operations they undertake,” she added.

Safety Breaches Lead to Fatal Accident

The tragic consequences that can result from health and safety breaches were clearly highlighted in a case recently reported by the HSE, where an agency worker lost his life after being drawn into machinery.
Karlis Pavasars was an agency worker at a recycling company. He was cleaning near a conveyor when the recycling line was started up and he was drawn onto the conveyor, along the line through a trommel and into an industrial waste shredder.
When the HSE investigated the case, it found that fixed gate that fenced the area off and prevented access to the conveyor had been removed for a number of weeks prior to the incident, which meant that workers could freely gain access to the area. Management were aware that the gate was not in place just days before the incident.
The investigation also found the company failed to design and provide a recycling line which was safe for those that worked on and around it, including separation of wheeled vehicles and pedestrians. The company also failed to maintain adequate guarding of the line to prevent access to it while it was in operation and failed to train and supervise agency workers.
The company was fined £880,000, and two senior managers were given suspended prison sentences.
“This horrific fatality could so easily have been avoided by simply installing and maintaining physical guards around conveyors and ensuring that safe working practices were in place,” commented HSE inspector Dr Richenda Dixon. “Employers should make sure they properly assess, apply and maintain effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery”.

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