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Waste and Recycling Sector Fatalities Soar in 2017

27 July 2017
 July 27, 2017

The number of fatal injuries in the waste and recycling sector for 2016/17 is almost double the annual average for the past 5 years according to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual figures.

The Health and Safety Executive noted that despite being a relatively small sector in terms of employment, the annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is around 15 times as high as the average industry rate. The sector finds itself positioned at third most dangerous industry with 14 fatal injuries following Construction with 30 fatalities and Agriculture with 27. The HSE figures also stated that 5% of lone workers in this industry are likely to sustain a work related injury.

This time last year an incident occurred which sparked huge concern regarding the personal safety standards among the recycling and waste industry. Five workers were crushed to death by a 15ft concrete structure containing mental that collapsed on them in a Birmingham recycling plant. Two ambulances, an air ambulance, a hazardous area response team and an emergency planning officer were immediately called to the scene. Sadly, there was nothing that could be done to save the men who had been working next to it and all five lost their lives.

Another serious incident that has happened within this industry involved a worker in Sheffield who was killed as a result of a recycling lorry tipping him over and crushing him to death. The HSE investigated the matter further and found that the skip had not been hooked on to the lorry correctly, resulting in it becoming unstable once raised at an angle. One of the supporting rigger legs then retracted under the uneven weight distribution, resulting in the lorry tipping over. The company was ordered to pay £424,468 in fines and costs as a result.

Due to the shocking increase in figures involving this industry, recycling and waste organisations have slowly started to make changes within their health and safety training for workers.

As mentioned on the Health and Safety Executive’s site, Cory Environmental is one of the UK’s leading waste management companies. They manage in excess of 3.5 million tonnes of waste and recyclables each year and employ over 1,400 people.

To help communicate important safety and site information, Cory have developed a DVD version of the driver site rules. The DVD includes enhanced content covering information about the revised towing procedures, safety and operational information about the main hazardous areas within landfill sites and key topics such as segregation of pedestrians and vehicles. It also includes advice about how drivers can get assistance without walking around the site.  Copies of the DVD were issued to customer drivers’ managers and fleet managers who were then required to complete and return an acknowledgement of the rules.

How can you make a change?

Although the incidents that have occurred over recent years are a rare occurrence, many of them seem to take place due to simple safety checks and procedures not being met. Taken from the HSE’s annual statistics 2017, most of the fatal injuries and deaths in the recycling and waste industry were caused by the vehicles on the worksite. Listed below are some simple tips that could reduce the chances of injuries happening on the work site.

  • Slow Down – when approaching a truck, slow down and stop if necessary to allow the workers to complete their job.


  • Look out For other Workers a work site can be a very busy place. Workers are frequently getting on and off different vehicles. Ensure you look out for workers before moving any form of vehicle. If necessary, beep the horn or make a signal to ensure workers have acknowledged you.


  • Avoid Distractions avoid distractions like eating, texting, changing the radio station or talking on your mobile phone when maneuvering near a waste and recycling truck.


  • Stay Back At Least One Car Length leave distance between you and the collection vehicle. This will ensure nothing can fly out of the back of the truck onto your vehicle while the truck is in operation.


  • Wear the Correct Clothing insure you were wearing the correct items of clothing when on the work site. Wearing a high visibility jacket will help other workers see you, whilst allowing you to see others better.


  • Carry a Personal Device carrying a personal safety device with you at all times is very sensible. Lone working is no more dangerous than working alongside others however, if you are an individual who carries out this type of manual work alone, carrying a device such as Skyguard’s MySOS device or Smartphone app will allow you to reach help in case of an emergency.