Thanks to letsrecycle.com for reporting HSE data on 2012/13 waste sector injuries.
The data are invaluable, and actually far more valuable than are mortality data since that give evidence of overall performance and safety standards.
“Deaths across the waste and recycling industry have doubled this year despite the number of major injuries in the sector falling, according to statistics published by the Health & Safety Executive today (October 30).
Provisional figures released in the HSE’s 2012/13 annual report show the sector recorded 500 major injuries, which includes amputations, fractures, and burns, an improvement on 2011/12 when 512 major injuries occurred.
However, the industry also saw 10 worker fatalities during that period – twice the figure recorded in 2011/12 making it among the country’s ‘highest risk’ industries according to the HSE.
Commenting on the figures, Graeme Walker, head of waste and recycling for the HSE, argued that more needed to be done to prevent accidents in the sector.
He said: “Waste and recycling remains one of Britain’s higher risk industries. Everyone has a responsibility to ensure the number of people killed or harmed in this sector is reduced year on year.
“Though the numbers are slightly down on last year, too many people still fail to return home safely from work and we are continuing to work together with the industry to change this.
“HSE is committed to working with the industry to encourage the improvement of health and safety standards while reducing the amount of unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy.”
Last year, HSE was forced to admit it had made an error in reporting the number of fatalities across the industry, after it was found 314 waste-related injuries had been wrongly allocated to the heading ‘Public administration and defence; compulsory social security’ instead of waste management (see letsrecycle.com story).
By January 2013, the number of fatalities had already doubled those recorded for 2011/12. This follows a spate of incidents in 2011/12 when nine people were killed in the space of just 12 weeks (see letsrecycle.com story).
In July, chair of the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) forum Chris Jones said while it was wrong to dismiss their importance, injury rates were a better measure of health and safety than fatalities, which showed the waste and recycling industry was showing improvement overall.
Earlier this month, HSE made changes to its reporting requirements for businesses, which reclassified major injuries with a shorter list of specific injuries, including serious burns covering more than 10% of the body, amputations, fractures (excluding thumbs, fingers and toes) and injury leading to permanent or reduced loss in sight.
Similar rule changes in April 2012 prompted criticism from Mr Jones, who argued changes to legislation would not reduce the number of accidents and could even result in data discrepancies.
To make the data yet more informative, what is now essential is to stop companies and their H&S staff from putting so much effort into avoiding RIDDOR reporting from where these data sets are compiled. RIDDOR is a much-abused reporting framework about which too many H&S ‘professionals’ work hard to circumvent, playing games with words, and with facts, to exclude an incident from statutory reporting.
For them, there may be much to hide, and it is for just that reason that RIDDOR becomes important. It may prompt a visit from HSE. That is unwanted and unwelcome by most, but for companies with a poor track record the risks are great and one might assume that the intention to hide the facts is a deliberate act that if proved should result in prosecution, and professional review and possible sanction against any H&S professional who may assist in that act.
It is a reflection on the escalating costs and reduced funding of HSE that revisions to RIDDOR reduce the range and scope of incidents and accidents that must be reported.
The statistics will change.
Let’s hope that this is properly acknowledged in statistical evaluations over the next 2 years of so. When the applause and self-congratulations of improving workplace accident statistics fades, we must be absolutely clear that any ‘improvements’ are more likely more apparent than real, and redouble efforts to deliver and maintain a safe working environment for all of those working in the waste and related sectors.