Watchdog ‘interventions’ at deadly waste firms

Major UK waste and recycling firms are to be the target of “central interventions” by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in a bid to address the sector’s appalling health and safety record.

HSE says it is acting after its first targeted waste programme “arrested the rising accident rate and brought about a small reduction” but adds “the accident rate is still high (typically 4 times the all industry average for all injuries to workers and typically 9 times the all industry average for fatal injuries to workers).”

It says the interventions will “be undertaken to assess the safety management systems of national waste management and recycling companies who undertake waste and recycling collection services,” with the following firms targeted: Biffa Waste Management Limited; European Metal Recycling Limited; Enterprise Limited; May Guerney Recycling (aka ECT Recycling); SERCO Limited; Shanks Waste Management Limited; Sita UK Limited; Veolia Environmental Services Limited; Verdant Group plc; and Viridor Waste Management Limited.

A number of these firms have recent prosecutions for serious safety breaches.

The union GMB has campaigned for manslaughter charges to be brought in the case of member Dennis Krauesslar, 59, who was killed on 10 September 2007 by a mechanical digger when depositing grass cuttings at Biffa’s Newbury recycling centre. Biffa pleaded guilty to related safety charges in February 2010.

Veolia was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £22,000 costs at Birmingham Crown Court in July 2009 for a health and safety breach that led to a worker being seriously injured in a fall.  In February 2010, the company, which says it is the UK’s leading waste and recycling firm and which parades its environmental and safety credentials, was fined £130,000 after a worker was killed when a 1,100-litre recycling bin fell on his head.

And European Metal Recycling Ltd was fined £2,500 and £2,454 costs in October 2008 after an agency worker suffered serious injuries in a fall from a lorry.

An HSE Sector Information Minute (SIM), spelling out the purpose and methods of the interventions, notes: “If examination of the overall safety management system through the topics inspected provides (in the inspectors judgement) sufficient evidence to indicate a breach of legislation, then the need for any enforcement action should be considered in accordance with the Enforcement Management Model (EMM) and normal operational considerations should apply.”

It adds that inspectors should consider “director leadership” and “worker engagement” in the firms.

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