2 July 2020 by James Langley

Fatality rate ’18 times higher’ in waste sector

The number of fatal injuries recorded in the waste and recycling sector has fallen for the third consecutive year, but the average per 100,000 employees remains around 18 times higher than the all industry rate.

Figures published by Health and Safety Executive  yesterday (1 July) show there were five fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers in 2019/20.

While this is fewer last year’s total of seven, and is the lowest since 2014/15, the waste and recycling sector remains relatively high risk compared to other industries.

Including this year’s figures, across the last five years, there have been 7.1 deaths per 100,000 workers in the sector, compared with 0.42 across all sectors. For this year alone, there were 4.57 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

“Despite being a relatively small sector in terms of employment, the annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is around 18 times as high as the all industry rate,” HSE said.

Graph showing number of fatal injuries in the waste and recycling sector since 2013/14

Overall

The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 111 workers were fatally injured at work across all industries between April 2019 and March 2020 (a rate of 0.34 deaths per 100,000 workers), the lowest year on record.

This represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year, though it is likely that this fall was accentuated by the impact of coronavirus on the economy in the final two months.

HSE’s chief executive Sarah Albon said: “Every workplace fatality is a tragedy and while we are encouraged by this improvement, today’s statistics are a reminder that we cannot become complacent as we look to continue to work together to make Great Britain an even safer place to live and work.”

Coronavirus

However, the figures do not include deaths from occupational disease. Coronavirus infection is therefore not part of these figures.

“No one should be hurt or killed by the work they do”

Sarah Albon, chief executive of HSE

Ms Albon said: “No one should be hurt or killed by the work they do. In these extraordinary times, we have seen many workers risking their lives to help others during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Although these statistics are not a reflection on Covid-19 related loss of life, it is a pertinent time to reflect.”

Small sector

HSE notes the waste and recycling sector is relatively small in terms of employment.

An industry such as construction has a rate of fatal injury around four times higher than the average rate across all industries. This is still a considerably lower rate than that of waste and recycling, despite accounting for a greater number of cases.

The three most common causes of fatal injuries across all industries are workers falling from height, being struck by a moving vehicle and being struck by a moving object, HSE said.

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