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No time to waste! HSE reminds waste management companies not to forget health and safety risks

  • Market Insight 4 August 2020 4 August 2020
  • UK & Europe

  • Insurance & Reinsurance

No time to waste! HSE reminds waste management companies not to forget health and safety risks

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging waste management companies not to forget other health and safety risks while they are taking measures to manage the risk of Covid-19 infections[1].

With many waste management businesses at the forefront of providing vital services during these challenging times, safety across all aspects of the waste and recycling industry must remain top of the agenda.

A higher risk of death?

Recently released HSE annual workplace fatality figures for 2019/20[2] again show the elevated fatality rate in the waste and recycling industry, which is 18 times higher than the all industry rate. With transport and machinery-related risks remaining the main cause of fatality in the sector, waste management businesses should remain alert to these risks, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Whilst the HSE recognises the impact Covid-19 has had on waste management companies, as well as on all industries, employers also need to ensure that monitoring for compliance with precautions aimed at other risks also continues and is not degraded.

The HSE's chief executive Sarah Albon said: "no-one should be hurt or killed by the work they do. In these extraordinary times, we have seen many workers risking their lives to help others during the coronavirus outbreak. Although these statistics are not a reflection on Covid-19 related loss of life, it is a pertinent time to reflect"[3].

Spot inspections

Now, more than ever, waste management businesses should be alert to their basic duties and prepare themselves for the re-instigation of visits and inspection from the HSE which are already well under way for some industries. The HSE is calling on businesses in a variety of ways, through a mixture of phone checks and site visits, to hold them to account through ongoing spot inspections.

With the HSE's recent announcement likely to prompt a greater number of inspections across the waste and recycling industry, it is now imperative for businesses to:  

  • Ensure non-Covid-19 risk assessments are up to date and are continuing to be reviewed;
  • Ensure plant and machinery are safe to use and the appropriate checks have been undertaken;
  • Check employees have all of the right work equipment and that it is properly used and regularly maintained;
  • Ensure non-Covid-19 Personal Protective Equipment is still being worn appropriately; and
  • Ensure all relevant accidents, injuries and diseases are reported if appropriate through RIDDOR.

Whilst taking every measure to reduce the risks of Covid-19 infections remains important, the key message for waste management businesses is that they need to ensure that their focus remains on all risks and that the approach by businesses to the more conventional health and safety issues they face is not diminished even in the most challenging of times. Whilst the impact of the current pandemic has prompted a more flexible approach to ongoing regulation, the HSE will not shy away from using enforcement action against those who fail to prioritise health and safety.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please get in touch with a member of our team at sheregulatory@clydeco.com .

Author: Stephanie Lunt, Associate

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