WCAs urged to boost road health and safety

Health and safety experts have called for greater supervision of domestic collection rounds to minimise accidents and improve hygiene for crew members. Maxine Perella reports

Staff hygiene and supervision of crews during collection rounds needs to be bolstered if the waste industry is to improve on its health and safety (H&S) record, according to industry experts. The findings were revealed at a H&S seminar held jointly by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in London, 28 June.

Paul Harvey, HM principle inspector for the HSE’s waste & recycling section, spoke about a programme the HSE has set up to to look at the H&S aspects of collecting household waste and recyclables. As part of the first phase of this programme, HSE inspectors visited over 260 local authorities during 2005-6 to look at how they managed household waste collections.

Various aspects were studied including planning, management, incidents of musculoskeletal injuries, risk control, workplace transport, and hygiene. Hardware systems were examined such as CCTV on rear-loading refuse/recycling collection vehicles (RCVs), reversing aides, and high visibility clothing, as well as working practices such as man riding, double/single side collection, and manual handling techniques.

Too soft on hygiene

While the study found the majority of LAs were addressing the main aspects of RCV H&S hardware such as CCTV requirements and reversing alarms, “softer issues” such as staff hygiene and cross-contamination were trailing behind.

“The obvious issues have good compliance, but newer, softer issues – the industry needs to work on these,” said Harvey. “When it came to wash basins on vehicles, 26% of workers didn’t have any way of washing themselves when they got contaminated. In addition, 7% of workers had no reasonable access to toilets on collection rounds.”

He also noted that the ergonomic suitability of RCVs for sorting/loading operations – for example, the height of sorting surfaces and placement of stillages – required “a bit of work”.

The need for safer working methods was emphasised – practices such as man-riding and reversing while loading are a common cause of accidents. “There isn’t really an understanding of how to reverse safely in a pedestrian environment,” observed Harvey.

He talked about double/single side collection and the need for collection crews to reduce the number of times they have to cross the road. “Twenty-five percent [of LAs] are on the poorer side on collection of containers from the nearside kerb only,” he revealed, and added that the HSE will publish guidance in the next six months on this issue to encourage better working practices.

Greater supervision required

Management controls have also been scrutinised by the HSE, which found that 75% of supervisors suffered from “a lack of clarity” in their roles. “[Supervisors] are frontline controls … we need to ensure that management controls within the collection industry are good,” said Harvey.

He added that industry standards around monitoring levels of supervison were “not fantastic”, nor was the monitoring of contractor performance by the client, whether it was in-house or not.

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