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Blog March 2023 Updated March 2024

Improving safety and legal compliance in the Waste & Recycling sector - How to build a safety culture

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Lara van Rijswijk

Lara van Rijswijk

Head of Marketing EMEA & ANZ

The waste and recycling sector plays an important role in UK society. But given the physical labor, transport vehicles and heavy machinery involved, it is an industry that presents significant risks to workers involved.

While the Waste & Recycling sector itself only employs around 0.4% of Britain’s workforce, it still remains at one of the most high risk industries for work related health and injuries, only just beaten by Agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The full and compelling statistics have been recently published in the HSE Annual report Waste statistics in Great Britain, 2023, but to save the full read we provide you the highlights below:

  • 5,000 Workers Suffering from Work-Related Ill Health

An estimated 5,000 workers in the waste sector experienced work-related ill health (either new or long-standing) over the nine-year period from 2014/15 to 2022/23. This figure underscores the significant health challenges faced by workers in this industry.

  • 4,000 Workers Sustained Non-Fatal Injuries at Work

Over the seven-year period from 2016/17 to 2022/23, an estimated 4,000 workers in the waste sector sustained non-fatal injuries at work, as per the data from the LFS. This highlights the inherent risks associated with work in this sector.

  • Fatal Injury Rate in Waste is 10 Times the All Industry Rate

With a fatal injury rate of 4.08 per 100,000 workers, the waste sector's rate is about ten times higher than the all industry rate, according to the RIDDOR data. This stark contrast underscores the high-risk nature of the waste sector.

Further HSE Data compiled by ZoneSafe and released last year revealed serious safety concerns at 43% of waste sites visited between 2022-2023.

Costly consequences of HSE non-compliance

In a recent HSE press release, it was highlighted how a company faced a significant fine of £150,000 for failing to meet HSE improvement notice requirements. This serves as a stark reminder of the severe consequences that come with non-compliance to HSE regulations.

Beyond the immediate financial loss, non-compliance can have far-reaching effects on a company's reputation and employee morale. A tarnished reputation can lead to diminished customer confidence, ultimately impacting sales and market standing. Moreover, employees may question their safety and well-being within the organisation if HSE protocols are not taken seriously.

The repercussions of non-compliance can escalate, potentially resulting in custodial sentences for individuals involved, as seen in a further reported HSE case where a Birmingham-based recycling company was fined over £1.6 million, with both directors receiving nine-month jail sentences.

It's evident that the costs of HSE non-compliance extend well beyond monetary fines, underscoring the critical importance of prioritising safety measures and regulatory compliance within organisations. By proactively addressing HSE requirements, businesses can safeguard their reputation, protect employee welfare, and mitigate the risk of legal consequences.

Cultivating a robust safety culture: A business imperative

In any business, the well-being of employees directly impacts operational success. A healthy workforce ensures smoother operations and enhances the likelihood of meeting organisational goals. Conversely, workplace injuries not only harm the affected individual but also cast a shadow on the reputation of the company. This tarnished reputation can impede talent acquisition efforts and hinder business expansion opportunities. In severe cases, incidents may necessitate business suspensions, disrupting productivity and profitability.

As we delve into the complexities of these issues, it becomes evident that the consequences extend beyond fines and potential custodial sentences. Higher insurance premiums further compound the financial burden. However, merely recognising these challenges is not enough. True efficacy lies in implementing measures that prioritise worker safety.

Establishing a robust safety culture is paramount and requires the collective effort of every employee, including subcontractors. Neglecting to foster a culture of safety exposes individuals and equipment to heightened risks, jeopardising both human and operational assets.

In conclusion, fostering a safety-oriented environment isn't just a legal or ethical obligation—it's a strategic imperative for businesses aiming to thrive in today's competitive landscape. By instilling a culture of safety, organisations can fortify their reputation, enhance employee satisfaction, and ultimately drive sustained success.

Overcoming roadblocks to establishing a strong safety culture

In the realm of health and recycling companies, Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) issues often encounter significant hurdles due to reliance on paper-based processes. From Excel sheets to scattered post-it notes, the lack of centralised, standardised, and easily accessible systems impedes effective management. Additionally, many operations are saddled with outdated or inadequate EHS software that fails to meet essential requirements.

Consider your current approach: Are you effectively managing compliance obligations? Is training consistently delivered across all sites? How are risk assessments being conducted and documented? Are all incidents thoroughly recorded and reported? Do you have clear visibility on qualifications held by staff and their expiration dates? And, critically, are you meeting your safety Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?

If obtaining answers to these questions requires even just a day's worth of effort, it's a clear indication that your processes are disjointed, hindering the cultivation of a robust safety culture within your organisation.

The solution?

Address the root cause. By streamlining and modernising your processes, whether through adopting integrated software solutions or implementing standardised procedures, you pave the way for a more cohesive and proactive approach to safety management. With these foundational changes in place, you can effectively nurture and sustain a culture of safety that not only meets regulatory requirements but also fosters a workplace environment where health and well-being thrive.

Embracing digital transformation in Health and Safety management

In the demanding landscape of waste and recycling industries, the task of overseeing health and safety measures can often overwhelm limited manpower. This is precisely why it's time to transition your workload to a digital solution tailored specifically for this sector.

A comprehensive EHS software solution should offer seamless integration with your existing software stack while prioritising Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) essential for your industry. It should serve as a one-stop hub, providing all necessary tools within a user-friendly interface to facilitate the establishment of a robust safety culture.

By embracing digitalisation, you eliminate the barriers of siloed information, ensuring centralisation and providing a single source of truth for your operations. Your chosen EHS software should encompass every facet of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) management, from regulatory compliance and permits to risk assessments, monitoring reports, and hazardous material tracking. Real-time reporting capabilities are imperative, catering not only to internal stakeholders but also to relevant regulatory bodies, ensuring transparency and accountability at every level.

In summary, transitioning to a digital health and safety management solution equips your organisation with the agility and efficiency needed to navigate the complexities of the waste and recycling industry while fostering a culture of safety excellence.

But what would a digital solution mean for you?

Consider the transformative impact of a digital solution tailored to your needs. Picture accessing a role-specific dashboard that provides a comprehensive view of pending tasks, incident findings, and key documents, all accompanied by visualised KPIs, readily available at your fingertips.

With the right EHS software, ensuring legal compliance across various regions becomes effortless. It centralises training instructions, ensuring consistency across all sites, accessible to employees in their preferred languages, regardless of location.

Moreover, imagine the flexibility of performing configurable risk assessments tailored to specific job roles and activities, seamlessly mapping risks to equipment. Equipped with reusable templates and risk catalogues, your team can handle tasks more efficiently and consistently, even while offline.

Streamlined incident reporting is essential, allowing for prompt reporting and observations from any device, ensuring standardised data for all stakeholders.

Consolidating this wealth of information into a single platform goes beyond convenience—it provides invaluable insights into health and safety protocols. Identifying trends and refining policies becomes seamless, ultimately reducing incidents and reinforcing a culture of safety. Furthermore, instant access to worker competence status and qualifications ensures task assignments are matched with the right individuals, bolstering operational efficiency and safety protocols.

In essence, adopting the right EHS software empowers you to proactively address challenges, strengthen safety protocols, and align with industry expectations. It's a pivotal step towards fostering a safer and more efficient workplace environment.

Digitalisation is not hard, but it is necessary

In conclusion, while the process of digitalisation may seem daunting, its necessity cannot be overstated. By embracing digital solutions like Quentic powered by AMCS, you not only streamline operations and cut costs but also lay the foundation for a robust health and safety culture within your organisation. This combined with AMCS Group history of supporting Waste and Recycling companies for over 20 years means we understand your business!

Quentic powered by AMCS EHS Software, a best-in-class cloud-based solution, seamlessly integrates various organisational data to provide a comprehensive overview of your operations. Its scalability and GDPR compliance make it a reliable choice for businesses worldwide.

Through digitalisation, you can proactively shape and reinforce a safety culture crucial for the well-being of your employees, the success of your company, and alignment with regulatory standards.

Gain the confidence of compliance and unlock operational efficiencies by exploring the possibilities with Quentic EHS Software.

Talk to us today about reinforcing your safety culture.

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