Confused UK recycling sector is really deadly

If you work in waste and recycling in the UK, you might not be reassured to hear it has a work fatality rate nine times the national average. And you might be even more alarmed when you hear some privatisation-happy local authorities are clueless when it comes to their legal responsibility to keep you safe.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the UK government’s workplace health and safety watchdog, says it has “identified that a contributing factor may be that some local authorities are unclear what their legal duties are and mistakenly believe that putting a service out to contract relieves them of all health and safety responsibilities.”

HSE says it hopes new online guidance will help local authorities understand the importance of a sensible approach to health and safety when it comes to procuring and managing waste and recycling services, in a bid to help reduce death and injury. According to HSE figures, the recycling industry has nine times more fatalities than the national average and four times as many workers suffer injuries.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “The guidance will help local authorities understand the full extent of their role when managing waste and recycling contractors. HSE wants to see occupational health and safety become an integral but common sense part of the specification, procurement and management of waste and recycling contracts.”

HSE research has also found workers in the waste and recycling sector have higher sickness rates.

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