Health and Safety in the recycling industry – In 2012, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) told the waste and recycling industry to “renew efforts to improve worker safety”, following a string of fatalities. Serious accidents which take place when machinery is being operated with defective, missing or overridden safety guards continue to be reported, with many subsequent injury claims being brought.
Provisional figures released by HSE for the period 1st April 2011 to the 31st March 2012 show that with an average 6 deaths per year, Waste and Recycling is a high risk industry closely followed Mining/Quarrying although comparing favourably with Construction (average of 59 deaths).
A five-pronged plan to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured in the waste and recycling industry has been published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The HSE’s Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) has been working on the blueprint for better risk management since a summit in February.
The plan outlines 24 immediate action points under five strategic themes: providing strong leadership; involving the workforce; building competence; creating healthier and safer workplaces; and providing support for small- and medium-sized employers.
Key initiatives include the industry developing its own leadership standards, publishing new training materials on successful worker involvement and working with customers to use their leverage to promote improved competence.
The Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) forum is a multi-party forum made up of organisations broadly representing the waste and recycling industry. WISH members include representatives from HSE, main trade associations, professional associations, trade unions, recycling organisations and national and local government bodies involved in waste management and recycling. Its purpose is to provide information, identify solutions and improve health and safety in the recycling industry.
In January 2009, the WISH forum launched its Charter and strategic objectives to improve performance in the industry over a four-year period (January 2009 to December 2013). The strategy has five key objectives:
- Reducing accident numbers by 10% year on year over five years;
- Reduction in the number of working days lost due to accident and ill health;
- Promotion of effective health and safety management;
- Improved safety culture and attitudes in the workforce; and
- Increase in the levels of competence.
MRF’s (Materials Recovery Facilities) may use a range of technologies to sort recyclables by their physical and chemical properties; shape, size, weight, magnetism and optical scanning (paper and plastics. Although the recycling and sorting of waste is increasingly more sophisticated and mechanised, there remains a significant reliance on manual operations, particularly hand-picking, to ensure quality standards are met.
Ergonomics at materials recovery facilities
Conveyor belts are used in a range of industries to move materials. Using these systems in the workplace can reduce the risks of musculoskeletal injury (MSD) by avoiding the need for excessive repetitive bending, lifting and carrying.
In MRFs conveyor belt workstations (picking-stations) should be properly designed to ensure that operators do not excessively lean, stoop, twist, or over-reach, since these repetitive movements can themselves lead to musculoskeletal injury.
The workplace lay-out, size of the conveyor, type, through put and height of material, and how material is handled, are all factors to consider when assessing the risk of MSDs in a task undertaken at a conveyor.
Occupational hygiene implications of processing waste at Materials Recovery Facilities
The processes involved during recycling at MRFs can generate organic dust, which may lead to exposure to airborne microorganisms and their toxic by-products. This may cause health problems in workers who are involved in the handling waste.
There is a the potential for employees working in MRFs to be exposed to general airborne dust above the level where it is considered a substance hazardous to health (10 mg/m3 as an 8-hr TWA). In addition, there is also the potential for exposure to agents which are known to have harmful effects on human health such as fungi, bacteria and endotoxins.
What do you need to do?
As a duty holder you should take the health issues associated with exposure to dust and airborne microorganisms into consideration, assess the risk and determine the control measures required. You should ensure that there is:
- Provision of suitable and sufficient COSHH risk assessments;
- Provision of adequate welfare and hygiene facilities;
- Provision of a risk-based health surveillance programme;
- Control of inhalation exposure to hazardous substances by the effective use of general ventilation, Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) the appropriate use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE); and
- Provision of training and supervision;
- Transport, including vehicle movements, poor site layout and control, reversing and visibility issues. There is a risk of collisions if moving plant/vehicles and pedestrians are not adequately segregated.
- Machinery, including system to control the risks associated with maintenance, cleaning and repair operations.
- Slips and trips, including failure to control material spillages
- Work at height, such as during cleaning, maintenance and repair activities; and the sheeting and unsheeting of vehicles
Training to meet Health and Safety requirements in the recycling industry
Health and Safety requirements for the recycling industry – whether its Health and Safety Training, Fire Safety Training or First Aid Training: all our courses are designed to ensure you keep working within Health and Safety legislation as well as keeping within the law. We can advised of your training requirements that are best for your business and we can even help you with putting together a training plan to ensure you meet all Legal Requirements from First Aid Training to Fire Safety Training.
We are confident that we can offer you a competitive price for all your Health and Safety and First Aid Training requirements. Call us directly on 0800 774 7034 and we will be able to discuss your requirements.