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Waste and recycling sites (HSE guidance)

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Health and safety advice for the waste and recycling industry

  • Municipal or commercial collections

    • Municipal household and commercial collections activities cover the collection of residual waste, green waste  and recyclables. 
    • The overall industry performance is poor and with reportable injuries in the waste and recycling sector over 4 times greater than most other industry sectors.
    • The main causes of accidents include:
      • Manual Handling (Muscular skeletal disorders (MSDs))
      • Slips and trips
      • Hit by moving, flying or falling object
      • Falls 
      • Hit by something (object)
      • Hit by moving vehicle* 
      • Contact with moving machinery
      • Needle stick/sharps
    • * Although fewer in number the most serious accidents in terms of severity relate to being struck by a moving vehicle. In the last 6 years (2004/05 to 2009/10) there have been around 31 RIDDOR-reportable fatalities in the UK (including 9 members of the public) relating to municipal and domestic collections, 17 fatalities of which were attributable to household waste collections.
  • Skip hire

    • Workplace transport accidents are one of the most common causes of serious accidents and fatalities in the waste management industry. Significant among them are accidents that relate to transport related lifting operations.
    • Lifting operations typically involve hoists fitted to refuse collection vehicles, lifting equipment fitted to skip loaders, lifting equipment on hook loader vehicles, skips and other containers.
    • There are no national standards for the manufacture of skips and containers.  However, a number of commonly used industry standards exist which are produced by and available from the Container Handling Equipment Manufacturers Association (CHEM)
    • CHEM represents a number of manufacturers and suppliers providing equipment to the waste industry. Its members adopt, where appropriate, the standards outlined in a range of documents they produce.
    • Guidance on Skip and container safety in waste management and recycling has been produced in consultation with the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH). It does not aim to be comprehensive but gives examples of good practice within the industry.
    • This guidance is for designers/ manufacturers, buyers, users and maintenance staff who work with skips and containers used with skip loader and hook loader vehicles.
    • Further advice is available on the following related topics:
      • Sheeting and unsheeting
      • Runaway skip loaders
      • Safe use of skip loaders: Advice for employees
      • Stacking of skips
        • Loaded skips. The stacking of loaded skips on top of each other on vehicles causes stability problems and is regarded by the industry and the HSE as bad practice.  Furthermore, because of stability and accessibility issues you should not stack loaded skips on top of each other in yards or waste transfer stations.
        • Empty skips. Transportation of stacked empty skips should be subject to a load securing assessment. Empty skips stacked 3 high or more will be regarded by HSE a higher risk if they are determined to be unsuitably stacked or not properly secured. Again, if encountered on the highway vehicles in this condition are likely to be subject to enforcement action by the police.
        • Further information and guidance on safe and secure loads can be found on the CHEM website.
        • When empty skips are stored in yards or transfer stations the height of the stack should be determined by its stability. Issues such as ground conditions, accessibility for the skip loader and safe access for an operative to attach and detach chains should be taken into account.
      • Safety Alerts
      • Training
  • Waste transfer

    • Workplace transport accidents relating to traffic movements are one of the most common causes of serious accidents and fatalities in the waste management industry. By the very nature of operations carried out at a waste transfer station, it is important that workplace transport activities are adequately controlled.
    • There is general guidance on Safe transport in waste management and recycling facilities which is aimed at waste management facility managers, their supervisory staff, and safety professionals within waste management companies.
    • In addition, there is specific guidance relating to Hand sorting of recyclables ('totting') with vehicle assistance.
  • Bring banks and household waste recycling centre

    • Help to control risks on your site by:
      • selecting and maintaining suitable equipment, especially vehicles and materials handling equipment;
      • adopting a safe site layout and traffic control measures (for example see Cumbria County Council case study);
      • designing and maintaining safe operating procedures;
      • organising competency training for employees; and
      • providing visitors with adequate supervision, information and instruction.
  • Scrap and metal recycling

  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

    • This is a rapidly growing and highly specialised part of the metals recycling industry. Large household appliances (e.g. ovens, fridges, washing machines) make up over 40% of WEEE but there are large volumes of other equipment such as IT equipment (mainly computers), televisions (cathode ray tube and flat screen), small household appliances (e.g. kettles and hair dryers), electrical tools, digital watches, electronic toys and medical devices.
    • Such items contain a wide variety of materials e.g. an average TV contains 6% metal and 50% glass, whereas a cooker is 89% metal and only 6% glass. Other materials found include plastics, ceramics and precious metals.  
  • Landfill and energy recovery

    • Once recyclables have been removed from waste, any residual materials need to be disposed of or otherwise utilised. This has traditionally been achieved by deposition into landfill but to meet landfill targets the amount (and type) of material going to landfill has reduced significantly and will be diverted to produce energy and/or other products (RDF - refuse derived fuel).
    • Landfill involves burying waste in old quarries. The main health and safety risks to workers at landfill sites include:
  • Further guidance

    • HSE and WISH have produced a large body of guidance and illustrations of best practice to help organisations manage the risks associated with collection activities.


Reducing fire risks at waste management sites 5 Steps to Risk Assessment

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