Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
January 5, 2015

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Safer working in waste and recycling

By Susan Relf

On 27 November, HSE and the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum joined forces for its second waste and recycling industry summit to reflect on the improvements made in health and safety performance since the first summit in February 2013.

The first meeting of industry representatives and HSE regulators prompted WISH to create five strategic themes, which in turn led to five relevant working groups.

As chair of the support for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working group, this was a particular challenge. Micro SMEs, especially, make up nearly 50 per cent of the waste industry and yet these two-to-three person enterprises are often so immersed in their business that they can’t spare resources to attend update conferences or go internet browsing for tips and hints on safer working.

The focus on the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 can become blurred among all the other business requirements; this group doesn’t become visible until a serious incident happens and then it’s too late.

To start with, after the first summit, it took some time to gather together a band of willing volunteers from across the waste industry. This was mainly because larger companies would say, “We tried to help this industry area in the past and got nowhere” and so were initially hesitant about re-engaging.

Trying to persuade representatives from businesses to attend as well as consultancies was difficult; both add value but it must be balanced because without businesses being represented the personal commercial impact they are dealing with might be overlooked when developing useful tools.

By early December 2013, however, the working group held its first meeting to identify any areas that needed improvement, plus to look at the availability of guidance and similar resources for waste industry SMEs.

As a result, the members identified four areas, four strategy goals that would deliver four essential tools:

  • Develop and publish guidance aimed specifically at the waste industry’s SMEs – thinking about an audience without access to media technology.
  • Develop and publish simple self-assessment checklists for evaluating the effectiveness of safety systems in the workplace for an audience that does embrace modern technology.
  • Identify existing waste industry resources and make them available for SMEs.
  • Investigate and develop methods to communicate with the waste industry SMEs.

Representatives from a diverse range of organisations joined the working group, including waste companies – Agrivert; Grundon and TEG and the employer-led membership organisation, EU Skills, which provided the funds to support one of the tools.

Recognising that not all SMEs will embrace technology, the first tool is a pocket guidance, which is aimed at very small operators that don’t have the time or the resources to go online regularly. Available in hard copy or PDF format, the guidance covers the basic health and safety requirements for operating a business.

The next tool is a mobile phone App template for carrying out a self-assessment of the workplace. The auditing template has been created in the iAuditor App platform and is based on HSE’s ‘health and safety made simple’ guidance.

A user-friendly checklist, the tool is designed to enable businesses to carry out an audit and identify if they meet the basic legal requirements and to make an action plan for any further work. The assessment could also be used by businesses that require contractors to carry out self-assessment. There is a function that enables them to request a report to re-check during a duty of care visit; the assessment creates this report, which can be emailed once it’s been completed.

To access it, the user only has to download iAuditor from the App store and then select the ‘health and safety made simple for the waste industry’ template from the library. EU Skills also provides the iAuditor App on the waste sector landing page of its website.

Working with the EU Skills, the working group developed a third tool, which can be accessed via EU Skills’ website; the landing page offers a wealth of information for SMEs in the sector, including downloads of free videos, training aids, guidance and hints and tips that other businesses have found useful. The long-term challenge is going to be how to keep it relevant and up to date.

The final tool was developed after WISH joined forces with Safety Groups UK to develop a model for meet-up groups for the waste industry and for the waste industry to become an affiliate member to facilitate communications across all the waste sectors.

In June 2014, Chris Jones, WISH chair and I met up with John Cairns, chair of Safety Groups UK, to take this project forward. Safety Groups UK encourages businesses to join a national network of working groups and the idea was that WISH would create small groups of businesses from the waste sector to join up and share learning and business networking.

The model works well with, for instance, a health and safety consultant bringing their clients together to share concerns and ideas. This means any regulatory information, guidance, changes to law, calls for action and feedback from industry can be fed into the groups from a national level. WISH is working with JayBee Safety to set up the first waste group in the network.

With these valuable tools now developed, the next stage of the working group’s programme will be to share them among target businesses, possibly through larger companies and local contacts.

However, none of this work would have been possible without the volunteers from the working groups putting in their time. Halfway through the process, concerns were raised from members that the output plans were very ambitious. That’s very true, but they weren’t too ambitious, and together we’ve created four tools that will hopefully make the waste sector much safer and healthier.

Susan Relf is chair of the WISH working group, support for SMEs. She is also compliance director at Agrivert Limited.

To receive a copy of the pocket guidance, email: [email protected]

Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments