Nearly one fifth of local authorities are not following important health and safety guidelines when procuring and managing waste and recycling contracts, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The findings come half way through an inspection initiative, being undertaken by the HSE, of the 407 councils in England, Scotland and Wales to determine areas where improvement is needed. The phased three-year inspection initiative was launched in October 2010 and will see all councils surveyed by October 2013.
As part of the survey, the HSE has also published guidance for local authorities to help them comply with health and safety requirements when dealing with waste and recycling services.
Councils have a legal obligation to manage health and safety, as do service providers, whether they are in-house or contractors. The HSE said these joint responsibilities should be reflected in the contract documentation.
As of March 2012, 19% of the 171 councils that had been visited were found to be non-compliant in relation to managing and procuring waste services. In addition, one prohibition notice and 27 improvement notices were served, including five in reversing assistant training and two in transport management.
Meanwhile, 26% of councils visited were found to have sub-standard frameworks for monitoring and reviewing health and safety, and 28% sub-standard risk assessments of activities.
Discussing the importance of health and safety for councils when managing waste and recycling contracts, Janet Viney, HM Inspector of health and safety, told letsrecycle.com: The responsibility for making arrangements for all household waste and recycling services rests with local authorities.
Each service is subject to a procurement process, placing local authorities in the role of client. Evidence from previous inspection initiatives highlights the potential for further improvement to be made in the health and safety standards of waste and recycling services, regardless of whether the service is delivered in-house or contracted out.
Ms Viney explained that the initiative had been undertaken in a bid to reduce the high accident rate in the waste and recycling industry. At present, it is four times higher than the average for other industries whilst the fatal injury rate is nine times higher.
She added that that health and safety is an integral part of the procurement and management of a municipal waste and recycling services.
“Evidence from previous inspection initiatives highlights the potential for further improvement to be made in the health and safety standards of waste and recycling services, regardless of whether the service is delivered in-house or contracted out.”
– Janet Viney, HSE
The initiative saw HSE inspectors review procurement and management policies of local authorities, as well as assess collection activities, review management and safety representatives and where necessary, help produce an action plan.
Councils were scored one to six on a range of activities one was awarded for high standards and six for unacceptable standards. As of March 2012, the HSE had undertaken inspections of 171 out of 407 local authorities in Britain.
The HSE said councils were performing well in a number of areas including manual handling, health and welfare, vehicle transport and PPE. However, there are a number of areas that need work. Areas where future intervention is likely to be needed include:
- Procurement and management of the service / contract;
- Monitoring and reviewing the contract;
- Route risk assessment;
- Hearing protection; and,
- Monitoring the effectiveness of supervision.
The HSE said that follow-up visits will be undertaken to councils who are found to be non-compliant.
Following the launch of the inspection initiative, the HSE has produced specific guidance for local authorities, which includes case studies and advice.
Commenting on the guidance, Ms Viney said: As part of that project, the sector in consultation with the industry has produced specific guidance aimed at local authorities when procuring and managing waste services, together with associated practical case studies. The guidance is structured to reflect the key stages of the contract management process and outlines a number of key features and principles of good practice associated with each of these steps.
The HSE said the inspection initiative is designed to make local authorities aware of the guidance and offer them a benchmark against which to measure their performance.
The HSE said the guidance will be updated as the study continues and that it would welcome further case studies from the waste and recycling industry that could be included.