Municipal and commercial collections


Municipal household and commercial collections activities cover the collection of residual waste, green waste  and recyclables.  Around 70% of all workers are in this industry sector, and they account for about 80% of all the reported injuries.

The overall industry performance is poor and with RIDDOR reportable injuries in the waste and recycling sector over 4 times greater than most other industry sectors.

The main causes of accidents include:

  • Manual Handling (Muscular skeletal disorders (MSDs))
  • Slips and trips
  • Hit by moving, flying or falling object
  • Falls 
  • Hit by something (object)
  • Hit by moving vehicle* 
  • Contact with moving machinery
  • Needlestick/sharps

*Although fewer in number the most serious accidents in terms of severity relate to being struck by a moving vehicle. In the last 6 years (2004/05 to 2009/10) there have been around 31 RIDDOR-reportable fatalities (including 9 members of the public) relating to municipal and domestic collections.  17 fatalities of which were attributable to household waste collections.

Selecting a collection system - Striking the balance

Local authorities, private sector and community sector organisations have many factors to consider when selecting the most appropriate collection/transfer/treatment systems for waste and recyclables. For example, environmental controls, meeting landfill diversion targets, delivering value for money service and ensuring the health and safety of those affected by the industry. Organisations need to consider all these factors and balance them.

Comprehensive risk assessment is essential to ensure that services are delivered with risks controlled so far as is reasonably practicable.

Guidance on sensible risk management

When assessing the risks and evaluating the various options available it is essential that all hazards are identified and evaluated (eg Musculoskeletal injury, cuts, slips and trips, transport etc).

Any assessment process may also need to consider the hazards and level of risk presented across the entire process, from collection to final re-use/recycling/disposal. This may allow the consequential effects of each step in the process to be accounted for. For example a particular collection system may result in greater/less manual handling in subsequent processes.

HSE, in partnership with DEFRA, Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly Government, commissioned research to provide information to local authorities that to further assist this process. The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), Human Factors Science group has produced a research report "Waste and recyclables health and safety final report incorporating Risk Comparator Tool user guide" RSU/RA/07/01

This publication aims to provide a means for local authorities and others to compare the level of risk from different waste and recyclables management systems. This, when used alongside other criteria, such as environmental targets, cost and local availability, can help make a balanced decision on the most appropriate overall system, taking appropriate account of health and safety issues.

Procurement of Waste Services

All local authorities (LA) are responsible for the collection and disposal of waste. HSE has produced guidance on the procurement and management of waste services. As client local authorities have a significant influence on how the service will ultimately be delivered whether it is undertaken in-house or contracted out. The guidance is applicable to procurement of all activities associated with waste services but is of particular relevance to collection activities.

A number of local authorities and contractors have contributed case studies examples of good practice in the procurement process.

Design and maintenance issues

Manufacturers, designers and users should consider the following issues which can impact upon health and safety when carrying out collection activities:

  • The ergonomic design of waste materials receptacles
  • The design of vehicles and systems of work used for 'kerbside sorting'
  • The maintenance of lifting points on skips, 'bottle banks' and similar

Further guidance

HSE and WISH have produced a large body of guidance and illustrations of best practice to help organisations manage the risks associated with collection activities. Guidance of most relevance to municipal and commercial collections are:

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Updated 2021-07-01