The Importance Of Health And Safety In Waste Management

Industry News By Sarah

There are some industries in which health and safety training will have a strong emphasis on some particular areas. For example, construction will focus a lot on working at height. In contrast, those involved in working with hazardous materials such as asbestos or dangerous chemicals will need to prioritise personal protective equipment.

However, even in these fields, there will be multiple areas of concern that need to be addressed. To give one example, in construction, there will need to be just as much consideration for someone working on the ground excavating foundations, lest these become unstable and collapse on them.

Waste management is a particularly broad area. On the one hand, it will involve clearing up some hazardous chemicals, dealing with sharp objects, disposing of items in a secure place and also using heavy equipment like skips, plus machinery and vehicles, in a safe way.

As ever, if anyone is feeling complacent about the matter they only need look at real-life situations where failures of health and safety among these various aspects of waste management work have led to terrible consequences, both for the affected individuals and for the companies, who have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.

For instance, there was the recent case of WM Russell and Sons, a skip hire and waste management firm in Dunfermline, which was fined £24,000 over an incident in which a staff member suffered a severe injury that led to the amputation of three of his fingers.

The failure, which involved a granulating machine, occurred because there was no safe system of work in place for changing the cutter blades. This amounted to a breach of Sections 2(1), and 33(1)(a) of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, with the employer pleading guilty in court on both counts.

Section 2(1) of the act states that: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.” This has to be your starting point every time, no matter what sector you operate in. The specific failing of 33(1) (a) was simply a basic failure to discharge this duty.

Another recent case involving waste management occurred in Lincolnshire when a worker at a recycling plant suffered burns to his face and body when a crowbar he was using came into contact with a live electrical cable, causing an electrical explosion. This also caused him to fall off the platform he was standing on, leading to multiple fractures.

A key failing in this case was that electrical safety training had not been given to the worker, with his employer being fined £200,000 with over £12,000 in costs as a result.

These are two very different examples of how safety failings can happen with dire consequences in waste management. The nature of premises can vary a lot from outdoor landfill sites to indoor, purpose-built recycling centres, while the locations and situations from which waste Is taken in the first place can differ widely.

That is why it is vital to ensure that you know how to implement the core principles of health and safety law, while also knowing what you need to do to protect workers against specific dangers.

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