The principles of good contract design and management are particularly important, but are no different in the waste industry than they are in any other. Throughout the stages of a contract, from conception to conclusion, you as client have a duty to ensure that the contract is specified and carried out in a manner that ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of contractors, employees and members of the public.
Putting a service out to tender is not a mechanism for transferring all the health and safety risks to a contractor. You as client must ensure that whoever carries out the work is able to do so in a way that controls health and safety risks and that you are not forcing conditions or systems upon your service provider that put people at unacceptable risk.
As client you will need to test any prospective service provider's ability to deliver a safe and healthy operation and once the contract is awarded that is not the end of the matter. You will need to ensure, through robust client monitoring, that what should be done is done and that the systems of control remain effective. There should be sufficient flexibility in the contract to take account of changing risks and technological advances so that the systems of control can be adapted and remain effective.
It is important that issues around the management of occupational ill health and health surveillance are considered and included in the process.
As client you should be prepared to challenge your own accepted policy and practice, where there is concern that this fails to address and control the significant risks.
It is acknowledged that as an LA you are faced with the challenge of diverting waste from landfill, for example, but this must not be at the expense of necessary health and safety controls. When defining and agreeing specifications, as client you need to question the appropriateness of each available system to determine the most suitable method to secure the health and safety of all concerned, whether they are your employees, contractors or members of the public.
All collection systems have differing types and levels of risks associated with the different stages of the materials lifecycle. HSE does not advocate one system over another in terms of health and safety. What is vital is that all of the risks across the whole system are assessed and the most appropriate system selected for the particular environment. Thereafter, any residual risks must be properly managed.
Health and safety cannot exist in a vacuum and it is important to strike the right balance in terms of sensible risk management versus other considerations (eg recycling/environmental targets). Your aim should be to try and select the best variables wherever possible and mitigate the residual effects to provide optimal solutions.
Ultimately, you must strive to be a competent client. Specifying, selecting and operating a safe contract/service will require input from a range of relevant people with appropriate competence, skills and expertise. These can be from within your authority (eg individual departments such as waste, health and safety, planning and highways) and external (eg contractors, consultants, other LAs and networks/forums).
The key to all-round success is effective communication, co-ordination and genuine co-operation between:
- You as client and your service provider (contractor or in-house);
- Individual departments within your authority (eg waste, health and safety, planning, highways, finance/procurement etc);
- You as an authority and your customers (eg householders); and
- You as client and manufacturers/suppliers (eg container or vehicle manufacturers).