Waste sector ranks 16th in Covid cases caught at work

Statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) this month show there have been 139 incidents of Covid-19 caught through occupational exposure in the waste sector since March 2020.

Large parts of the waste sector continued throughout the pandemic, so higher cases are expected

The statistics show that for the ‘waste collection, treatment and disposal activities; materials recovery’ sector, there have been 139 incidents and one fatality during the pandemic in the UK so far.

This compares with a total of 37,723 cases and 427 deaths between March 2020 to November 2021 across the industries the HSE covers.

The highest number of incidents reported was seen in ‘human health activities’ and ‘residential care activities’, where 11,347 and 9,704 cases were reported throughout the course of the pandemic.

Combined, the health and social care sector made up nearly 60% of cases.

The waste sector had few cases compared with the top five, but still recorded a fairly high number of cases


The waste sector had the 16th highest number of reported cases out of a total of 60 sectors. This ranks it above the food and beverage service activities sector and machinery manufacturers, but below construction and office administration.

The statistics are compiled using data the HSE stores when cases are reported.

Where a worker has been diagnosed as having Covid-19 and there is “reasonable evidence” to suggest that it was caused by occupational exposure, employers are required to report the case to the relevant enforcing authority under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

Outside the RIDDOR reporting, the HSE said 93,000 workers self-reported catching Covid-19 at work; 52,000 of these worked in the human health and social work sector.


The Covid-19 statistics come as the HSE also published statistics for 2020/21 which show that 1.7 million workers suffering from a work-related illness, around half of which were stress, depression or anxiety.

The pandemic has also affected certain data collection and impacted on assessment of trends. Therefore, there is no new data on working days lost and the associated economic cost for 2021.

Sarah Albon, HSE chief executive, said: “The latest figures on work-related stress reinforce our previous concerns around the scale of this issue in workplaces.”

She added: “HSE continues to act as a proportionate and enabling regulator taking the most appropriate actions to achieve the best and quickest result. However, where employers fall short of expected standards, HSE will not hesitate to hold those responsible to account.”

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