A wide variety of work equipment and machinery is used across the waste and recycling industry (eg conveyors, lifting equipment, waste baling and compacting machines). Every year, a significant proportion of accidents (many serious and sometimes fatal) occur as a result of poorly guarded work equipment or improper use (eg unsafe interventions such as clearing blockages, maintenance or repair activities being undertaken when machinery is running). To prevent and reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury adequate arrangements and systems of work are required.

Machinery related legislation

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 [PUWER]

These Regulations require that the equipment provided for use at work is: suitable for the intended use; safe for use; maintained in a safe condition and, in certain circumstances inspected to ensure this remains the case; used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training; and accompanied by suitable safety measures, eg protective devices, markings, warnings.

Providing and using work equipment safely: A brief guide

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 [LOLER]

These Regulations require that lifting equipment provided for use at work is: strong and stable enough for the particular use; marked to indicate safe loading loads; positioned and installed to minimise any risks; used safely, ie the work is planned, organised and performed by competent people; and subject to ongoing through examination and, where appropriate, inspection by competent people.

Lifting equipment at work: A brief guide

What can be done to reduce the risks?

Use the right equipment for the job.

Many accidents happen because people have not chosen the right equipment for the work to be done. Controlling the risk often means planning ahead and ensuring that suitable equipment or machinery is available.

  • Buying new machinery – A short guide to the law and some information on what to do for anyone buying new machinery for use at work
  • Equipment and machinery
  • Hiring out equipment – those who hire out work equipment are responsible for ensuring that the equipment is safe to use at the point of hire.  The hirer should also make reasonable attempts to find out what the equipment will be used for and provide advice on how it should be used. The safe use of the equipment is the responsibility of the person who hires it.

Preventative actions:

  1. Risk assess your work activities and introduce (and maintain) safe systems of work for all the machinery in use. Useful information on safe systems of work for the use of balers and compactors can be found in Guidance for the recovered paper industry. The underlying principles of this guidance can be applied to other machinery (eg, conveyors, shredders, trommels etc.) used in the waste and recycling industry.
  2. Ensure all fixed guards are in place (and are replaced after removal) and secured to ensure access to moving parts is not possible when the machine is in operation.
  3. During, cleaning, repair or maintenance activities inadvertent powered movement can be prevented by securely isolating the plant from power sources – usually the electricity supply, but can also involve hydraulic and pneumatic power, and take into account the dissipation of stored energy if applicable. Security ('lock off') can be provided by padlocks on electrical isolator switches, for instance, and multi-user padlocks can be provided if more than a single maintenance worker is involved.
  4. Further information on Machinery lock-off procedures has been produced by the Environmental Services Association (ESA).
  5. Permits to work can be utilised for more extensive plant, more complex management systems, and where entry into confined spaces may be required.
  6. Ensure operators have received appropriate information and training relating to the safe operation of machinery.

Other issues

  • Access and work at height . Falls can occur both when gaining access to places of work, and from the place of work itself (which may not have been designed for this purpose). Where access to items of plant for maintenance purposes requires working at height suitable risk assessments and systems of work must be in place.
  • Falling of heavy objects - It is not uncommon for heavy items to be moved, temporarily supported or inadvertently disturbed during maintenance activities. Suitable risk assessments and systems of work are in place for maintenance activity where heavy items may be moved, temporarily supported or disturbed.
  • Confined spaces –  a number of people are killed or seriously injured in confined spaces each year in the UK. This happens in a wide range of industries, from those involving complex plant to simple storage vessels. Those killed include not only people working in the confined space but those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment.

    A confined space is defined as any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (eg a reduced oxygen atmosphere). Some confined spaces are fairly easy to identify, eg enclosures with limited openings such as storage tanks, reaction vessel, enclosed drains or sewers. Others such as open topped chambers; ductwork, enclosed conveyor systems and unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms may be less obvious but equally dangerous.

    A suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities must be undertaken for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety. For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take.

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Updated 2023-08-08