September 2, 2019

Clean up your act! HSE to carry out inspections across waste industry

We will continue to target our inspections and enforcement to secure effective management and control of risks……However, to improve health and safety in the industry, the whole industry needs to take ownership of these challenges, work together and demonstrate leadership on implementing solutions.”[1]

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning those working in the waste and recycling sector that they must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace risk –or face potential enforcement action. With the waste and recycling industry continuing to have one of the poorest health and safety records, the HSE’s programme of proactive inspections will review standards in businesses across the country, with inspections due to start in October 2019.

What will the inspections cover?

Waste and recycling remains a priority sector for the HSE. The industry has an injury rate 17 times as high as the average across all industries respectively, when looking at the number of fatalities per 100,000 workers employed[2].

The HSE's Business Plan for 2019/20[3] sets out its priorities, building on the previous year's plan and drawing on the sector plans and Helping Great Britain Work Well strategy. The waste and recycling industry again features prominently on the HSE's agenda; there will be a programme of inspections to approximately a third of premises where intelligence received from other regulators indicates known poor performance.

The Plan confirms that the programme of inspections will focus specifically on the management of maintenance activities and safe isolation practices to prevent fatal and serious incidents within this industry. The HSE will also inspect selected premises to assess how effectively the health risks associated with exposure to bioaerosols are being managed.

What are the potential consequences?

In previous programmes, the HSE has taken action to deal with risk in around half of the workplaces inspected[4]. Therefore, any inspection carried out could potentially have serious consequences:

  • If a breach of health and safety law is found, the HSE inspector may issue an enforcement notice, requiring action to be taken before work can continue;
  • An inspector can also choose to use their “Fee for Intervention” powers to charge business owners for time spent inspecting and identifying issues (at a rate of £154 per hour);
  • Breaches can result in criminal prosecution causing significant financial and reputation damage to the business; and
  • Criminal prosecution can also be targeted at individuals within the business (especially directors and senior managers).

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

So, how can your business prepare?

  • Ensure all your documentation, including risk assessments and method statements, has been reviewed, is up to date and any revisions have been made.
  • Review training arrangements to ensure that employees have been properly trained in your policies and procedures.
  • Check there is adequate supervision and monitoring, to ensure compliance with the above.
  • Check all personal protective equipment and respiratory protective equipment to ensure that it is in good working order or replaced as necessary.
  • Make sure that anything highlighted during previous audits/inspections has been promptly addressed.

Should you require further advice, then do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.

Authors: Rod Hunt, Partner, and Luisa Lister, Professional Support Lawyer

[1] HSE quote following 2018 waste safety campaign

[2] http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/pdf/fatalinjuries.pdf

[3] http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/strategiesandplans/businessplans/plan1920.pdf

[4] http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/reports/ara-2018-19.pdf