Safety first on the WISH list

The first industry-led Safety Awareness Day designed specifically for SME-sized waste companies proved so successful, similar events will now be rolled out across the country.

The event, held in Portsmouth and organised by volunteers from the SME working group of WISH (Waste Industry Safety & Health Forum), attracted 28 different businesses, all keen to see practical demonstrations on how to control issues surrounding manual handling, working at height, isolation and guarding, and traffic management in the workplace.

Toni Robinson, Head of Compliance at Grundon Waste Management and Chair of the SME working group with WISH, says members of the working group, which is made up of volunteers from waste companies, consultants, trade associations and regulators; came up with the idea to offer very practical training advice and information that would be relevant to smaller waste companies.

It also wanted to incorporate showcasing the practical tools the working group had already created, such as a simple auditing App and practical pocket guidebook on Health and Safety.

“Our goal, as a group, is to support improvement in the safety culture within smaller SMEs,” said Toni. “Although there is plenty of advice available online, our vision for the success of the event was for an informal half-day training session held on a working site where boots and hi-viz vests would be the norm and everyone would feel comfortable, whether they were a site manager, supervisor or a small business owner.

“There were a wide range of topics and all the delegates had the opportunity to visit the different stands, to network with safety professionals and consultants and to share best practice.

“The feedback was excellent, the fact we were in a working environment made it so much more real, everyone was taking away information and there was a real feeling of engagement.”

The event was held at the working site of T J Waste & Recycling, who closed their doors to business for the day to enable the delegates to safely attend the event. The regulators, Environment Agency and HSE (Health & Safety Executive) were there too, to give advice and guidance.

Toni says the awareness campaign is part of an on-going overall plan by WISH to improve health and safety in the sector. Last year, an HSE report found that the waste industry’s health and safety record compares unfavourably with other sectors in terms of fatalities and non-fatal injuries.

Speaking about the issue, she added: “The report emphasised the need for real change and improvement in safety culture. Often people are unaware of the regulations and the need to take health and safety seriously, it is our duty to change that approach.

“We recognise that small businesses in particular can lack the time and resources to plough through lots of documentation and regulation, so by bringing the legislation to life and letting them talk through their concerns and questions, we hope we will continue to make a difference.”

Rick Brunt, Head of Waste and Recycling, HSE, said: “It is good to see the industry supporting small and medium sized businesses in the drive to reduce deaths and injuries across the waste and recycling sector.

“Despite employing less than half a percent of Great Britain’s workforce, the industry has injury and ill health incidence rates far in excess of most other industry sectors. The causes of injury and ill health are well known and straightforward to control and the industry needs to sustain concerted effort if it is to improve.”

The event attracted companies from across the southern region and there are now plans to expand into other areas and encourage more SMEs to engage in safety awareness issues.