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Wasted opportunities – consistent data to improve safety

Gary Escott Jun 7, 2018 11:20:00 AM

Being struck by a vehicle while at work is surprisingly common throughout various industries in the UK. The waste sector remains a very high risk, in fact, its fatalities are 15 times higher than other industries. The Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual waste sector accident figures consistently tell a grim tale of injuries, whether fatal or not. Being struck by vehicles, machinery or objects continues to be worrying causes of injury or loss of life.

However, are we getting the full story of where the pitfalls really are?  Stephen Freeland, policy advisor at the ESA (Environmental Services Association) says that their report on ‘Contrasting performance in the waste and recycling industry’ highlights discrepancies in how safety performance is reported between the HSE, RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences) and ESA members. The latter’s statistics apparently show consistent improvement among its member organisations that signed up to the Accident Reduction Charter in 2004. They have been meeting their annual 10% accident reduction targets since its inception, however the ESA members’ safety performance is not accurately reflected by the HSE reports, he alleges.

Therefore, ESA report makes several recommendations to remedy this reporting shortfall. Top of the list is that HSE statistics should be broken down between private and public sectors, including in-house contracts and outsourced firms. Safety KPIs (key performance indicators) should be adopted that are at the heart of service delivery. It also suggests launching more focussed programmes of inspection in specific areas of risk so a more accurate snapshot of safety in the waste sector can be shared. Programmes like this exist for ESA members already.

If all the above is indeed true, then I’m all for getting our stories straight. I don’t think any of our health and safety organisations want to mislead us, but perhaps they should revisit how they measure progress in safety practices and so benchmarking keeps up with actual safety requirements. Data is so important when it comes to progressive learning and development of new guidelines and regulations. We even made data acquisition part of the SiteZone offering with an option to record near miss and accident data by wearers. The whole point of this function is to assist health and safety managers to improve their safety benchmarking, learn from mistakes, see where the recurrences are and change those patterns.  By doing this, then they can allocate resources effectively and roll out appropriate safety programmes throughout the whole company.

It is said that knowledge is power. So, I think that it would be positive to arm ourselves with as much information as possible and exert our power as health and safety professionals through evolving technology, experience, and data capture to save lives and prevent more injuries. Now that this issue has been highlighted in the waste industry, it may spark a revolution to change how we report safety statistics in others.