The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has urged waste management companies not to forget to control other risks while taking measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The government agency says there has been an increase in ‘near misses’ with a high potential for a serious accident as the workforce forgets more basic risks in focusing on Covid-19.
In a statement published yesterday (7 July), HSE said: “Whilst monitoring precautions against Covid-19 remains important, employers also need to ensure that monitoring for compliance with precautions aimed at other risks also continues and is not degraded.”
HSE notes many waste companies had recently reported lower than usual levels of sickness absence.
HSE cited examples of problems where concentrating too hard on the coronavirus could result in increased exposure to other hazards.
It said employers needed to monitor for good traffic safety performance to reduce the risk of employees concentrating so hard on social distancing that they step unaware into traffic.
And, HSE said employees must not be so focused on Covid-19 precautions that lapses occur in lock-off or working at height.
Last week, HSE released its annual workplace fatality figures for 2019/20 (see letsrecycle.com story). These showed the waste and recycling sector had a fatality rate 18 times higher than the rate across the whole of industry during the last five years.
There were five fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers in 2019/20. Though this figure was the lowest on record, the HSE noted it is likely this was accentuated by the impact of coronavirus on the economy in the final two months of the year assessed.
The main causes of fatalities in the sector remain transport- and machinery-related risks, HSE says. Other prevalent causes of non-fatal accidents involve slips, trips and falls, and lifting and handling.
Speaking after the publication of the figures, HSE’s chief executive Sarah Albon said: “No one should be hurt or killed by the work they do.”