This website uses non-intrusive cookies to improve your user experience. You can visit our cookie privacy page for more information.

Waste and recycling industry event – speech – 27 November 2014

Judith Hackitt CBE, HSE Chair

Health and safety in waste and recycling: delivering the solution together

Good morning, thank you Alexander for the introduction and thank you for inviting me back to speak today. I am delighted to see such a good turnout. This underlines the commitment you are all making to help solve health and safety issues in the waste and recycling industry.

Much has happened since February last year, when we came together to explore key issues and identify potential solutions for the industry. Changes both within your industry and in the world of health and safety generally. So today is a good opportunity for me to outline some of the changes taking place in the health and safety system and to give you an idea of the future direction we are taking.

Looking ahead to the rest of the day, your active involvement is crucial, particularly in the workshops. This will help with setting out what the next steps for the industry should be. Please share your ideas and thoughts, and be willing to commit to taking action individually and collaboratively to improve the industry’s health and safety performance further.

Many of you will be aware that this year marked the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act. 40 years on, the health and safety system remains, fundamentally, fit for purpose. This is because health and safety law in Great Britain has an enduring principle – that those who create risks are best placed to control them, and that they should do so in a proportionate and practical way. The Act (HSWA), and regulations, focus on outcomes that need to be achieved, not rules and paperwork – they are designed to enable activities to take place not to stop them.

I believe there are some parallels to draw between the development of the health and safety system in Great Britain and the journey you are undertaking to improve health and safety specifically in the waste and recycling sector.

In addition, I know you appreciate improving the industry’s health and safety performance will not necessarily happen overnight, and you have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.

At the previous meeting I mentioned the various reviews of health and safety that have taken place in recent years; since then the Triennial review and government response to it have also been published. I am pleased to report that none of the reviews have found reason to question the fundamentals of HSE’s role or how it operates. But we recognise that like every organisation we must always strive to do better. And the reviews have made recommendations to improve the health and safety system further, primarily to make it as straightforward and easy as possible for dutyholders to successfully recognise and deliver what is needed.

We are making excellent progress with delivering on the recommendations from the reviews, updating processes in key areas such as:

To give a flavour of how we are achieving this, let’s take the point on over-interpretation and clarity of guidance. HSE has now reviewed nearly all of its guidance. We have improved our website and conducted a comprehensive review of all Approved Codes of Practice. All with the aim of improving and simplifying guidance.

Many of you will be familiar with our guidance on Successful Health and Safety Management – commonly referred to as HSG65. This has been re-written. It is now more relevant and accessible to those managing health and safety in workplaces today. The new version is available to download free of charge from the HSE website. Many of the essential principles and features are retained but it also where we all now are in terms of the maturity of Health and safety management systems.

I am pleased to say that many members of the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum, as well other industry colleagues, have been instrumental in helping HSE with our review of waste-specific guidance and supporting documents, as well as contributing to the wider review of ACOPs.

Some notable changes have taken place at HSE recently, to help us continually adapt and ensure the organisation remains as effective as possible for the future. A new Chief Executive was appointed earlier this month, Richard Judge, who joined us from the Insolvency Service. We have also appointed two new Board members. Richard and the new board members will bring new skill sets into HSE to match the organisation’s revised strategic direction. I want to make a clear distinction here between the strategy for HSE itself and the strategy for the health and safety system – known as Be Part of the Solution. It is the former that we are revising not the latter.

Our clear strategic intent is to continue to be a modern, effective independent regulator here in GB, adapting and improving how we work to ensure that we retain our position as a world class regulator, whilst also pursuing new opportunities.

There are three overarching themes to the strategy. These are to:

  1. First and foremost, protect and strengthen HSE’s regulatory capability;
  2. Make our knowledge and knowhow available to those who seek to improve their health and safety systems both nationally and internationally, making full use of the commercial potential of HSE’s intellectual property and its reputation as a world class regulator;
  3. Seek out opportunities to recover more of the costs of regulation from those who create risks, transferring the costs of regulation from the taxpayer to the risk owners.

Developing the commercial potential of HSE’s expertise is not about privatisation - it is about commercialisation of our knowledge and expertise alongside continuing our role as a world-class regulator and public body. Our reputation and standing, here at home and around the world is built upon what we do in GB as a regulator. If we fail to maintain our core business purpose and our reputation, there is no commercialisation. We would have nothing to offer. We are seeking to develop commercial opportunities where they contribute to improved management and control of risk – we see it as entirely complimentary to our core role – not a distraction from it.

On our cost recovery initiative, Fee for Intervention was introduced in 2012, as many of you are aware. It enables HSE to recover its costs when and where we encounter material breaches which require time and effort to help put right.

We’ve been paying close attention to how it operates and what people think of it. The query and dispute levels remain remarkably low and the indications are that many of the fears expressed by stakeholders before the system started have failed to materialise. An independent review of the operation of FFI concluded in the summer it was fit for purpose and should remain.

So what changes, if any, are the Waste and Recycling Industry likely to see in the interaction with HSE?

Regarding targeting of inspections, the Waste and Recycling industry will remain a key priority and focus for the HSE for the foreseeable future. The evidence to support its prioritisation comes from our data on accidents and ill-health, but also from current regulatory activities returns.

I think this demonstrates two things: our targeting is effective but also that there remains significant poor performance within this sector.

The overall trend for injury numbers and rates in waste and recycling over the last few years continues to fall, which we all welcome.

By comparison though, the rates remain significantly higher than for all industries combined as well as higher than both agriculture and construction sectors – so the blunt truth is that this remains the worst performing sector which we regulate, improvement is needed but it requires a long term and constant commitment to achieve it.

So there is no room for complacency, but by your actions you are demonstrating that the Waste Industry Health and Safety (WISH) Forum is anything but [complacent]. WISH has demonstrated clear leadership; formulating the Blueprint of Actions in the summer of 2013 was a first key step. Since then WISH has brought together representatives from across the industry to populate various working groups and maintained pressure and momentum on those groups to deliver.

HSE recognises that WISH and its members are extremely important in taking forward the issues within the industry and delivering solutions. Without stealing any of Chris’s thunder (Chair of WISH), I want to acknowledge that WISH is taking significant steps towards operating independently of HSE. HSE will of course continue to support the Forum well into the future.

I mentioned earlier that you have assisted with HSE’s review of existing guidance. And I know that WISH members have gone a step further by developing new and important guidance for the industry.

A prime example is the fire guidance issued in October, which aims to provide site operators with information and standards needed to reduce the likelihood and frequency of fires where wastes are stored and treated. WISH brought all parts of the industry together and, in a limited time frame, secured agreement as to practical measures and standards to be applied. It is an excellent example of cross-industry collaboration, working with regulators and other interested parties (such as HSL and insurance bodies) and it is right that the industry takes the lead in developing such guidance.

There are other notable examples too where WISH has taken a lead in making sure the right guidance, in the right format, is available for your industry. For example:

On Leadership - the development of the WISH self-assessment tool and guidance on safety leadership has been subject to road testing by senior directors and to ensure it is fit for purpose.

The support for SMEs and micro SMEs that WISH is developing is vitally important given the industry demographics. For example the accessible pocket guidance and the self-assessment tool in the form of a mobile App which is planned to become a one-stop shop for SMEs in the sector.

As well as sharing good practice amongst yourselves, the last time I spoke with you I urged you to share and seek out good practice in other industry sectors - don’t be afraid to adopt ideas from other sectors – avoid reinventing the wheel where possible. So, for example, you might want explore with both QNJAC and CHARGE (which represent between them the quarries and ceramics, heavy clay, refractories, glass and glazing, cement and concrete industries) what they have done to increase worker involvement in health and safety in their industries.

And I think another sign that WISH is adding value to your industry is that both QNJAC and CHARGE have decided to adopt the WISH leadership toolkit for their industries.

The WISH template is spreading to other countries with WISH members willing to share their experiences – for example with France – and with other countries looking to follow suit. [Netherlands and Belgium] This is another positive reflection on the work you are doing.

Looking to the future, by which I mean the immediate future, how else might WISH help take the industry forward?

Innovation and the application of technology are areas where I feel the waste and recycling industry has much more to gain. It would be a missed opportunity if the rapid growth of the industry was to mask the important business efficiency gains that innovation and technology could bring, along with the improvements to health and safety that could then be enabled.

There are challenging issues involving direct interface with the public during collection activities in particular. I was pleased to hear that in response to the tragic issue of cyclist fatalities involving large goods vehicles in London, a number of organisations involved in waste collection activities are taking steps to adopt relevant technologies on their vehicles. Vehicle mounted radar and sensor systems that will provide both the cyclists and drivers with clear visible and audible warnings when vehicles are moving left (at road junctions and changing lanes). I know too that similar technologies are available for reversing collection vehicles and for site vehicles such as shovel loaders – although as we all appreciate the primary control especially at site level should be effectively segregating pedestrians from vehicles wherever possible. The issues may be challenging but they need to be tackled. As I mentioned at last year’s event, if you need further inspiration in this area please look at what the quarrying industry is doing with 360 degree cameras on all its large earth moving vehicles.

And in the discussions later today I would encourage you to think about which aspects of the industry are not currently using technological innovation to gain both increased business efficiency and reduce health and safety incidents.

For HSE, knowing we have an effective health and system does not make us complacent. Far from it – there is plenty to do – injuries, fatalities, ill-health challenges remain, and the world of work is constantly changing so we all need to move and adapt with it.

That applies to you in the waste and recycling industry. It is vital that you push on and all do your bit to make further progress. In particular, make a concerted effort to tackle those actions where progress has been slow. Keep setting yourselves challenging targets and play your part in raising health and safety standards in the waste and recycling industry.

Thank you for listening and please enjoy and make full use of the rest of the day.

Updated 2015-01-07