Know your responsibilities

New guidance is now available to help local authorities understand the importance of health and safety in procuring and managing waste and recycling services, and what role they have in helping to reduce death and injury in the sector.
    
The waste and recycling industry has nine times more fatal accidents than the national average and four times as many workers suffer injuries. The Health and Safety Executive is concerned that a contributing factor may be that some local authorities are unclear what their legal duties are and mistakenly believe that putting a service out to contract relieves them of all health and safety responsibilities.

The guidance
The guidance, developed by HSE, with input from a number of local authorities, contractors and their representative bodies, is an easy to use, practical tool to aid the management of waste and recycling services. It also makes use of existing ‘good practice’ examples to demonstrate how some local authorities are already making health and safety an integral part of the procurement and contract management process.
    
The guidance can be applied to those situations where the service provision is delivered in house, as well as to those where it is contracted out – so it will be of relevance for all local authority clients.
    
Judith Hackitt, HSE Chair, said: “Waste and recycling is a sector that is experiencing considerable growth as we all strive to do more to respond to environmental challenges. This makes it doubly important that we take action to respond to the fact that the number of accidents in this sector continues to be high, despite recent improvements. One of the keys to further progress is getting the client/contractor relationships working well.
    
“The guidance will help local authorities understand the full extent of their role when managing waste and recycling contractors. HSE wants to see occupational health and safety become an integral but common sense part of the specification, procurement and management of waste and recycling contracts.
    
“HSE is very aware of the competing pressures on local authorities. One key principle of this guidance is that there is no need for this to be seen as a trade off – meeting recycling targets and achieving improvement in health and safety performance are compatible and complimentary goals.”

Health & safety responsibilities

The guidance is aimed at people who specify contracts, those in control of them and employers who operate the services. It will also help managers and supervisors design and operate collection services that suitably meet their health and safety responsibilities.
    
Collection services operate in environments and circumstances that are diverse and can change rapidly, so it was recognised that an explicit set of rules was not going to be workable or effective. More appropriate is a contract that allows flexibility to provide practical solutions to problems as they arise whilst also recognising existing hazards and using control strategies to reduce the risk of injury. When the service provider is appointed, the contract arrangements should include a robust framework for monitoring and reviewing their health and safety practice and performance.
    
Geoff Cox, HSE head of Manufacturing Sector, said: “It’s important to avoid being too prescriptive or detailed. This industry has seen enormous change over the last 10 years. There have been numerous new technologies and practices introduced and allowing your contractor some flexibility will help to ensure they meet their duties appropriately.”

Best practice
Case studies of councils that are already working well with their service delivery partners in waste and recycling are available online. One such example is Wirral Borough Council which, working with Biffa Waste Services, has created a partnership approach to managing the borough’s waste and recycling services. The working relationship they have allows health and safety issues to be dealt with flexibly and efficiently. They have also built in checks to ensure the system is working correctly.
    
HSE will begin targeted inspections of local authorities in their client for waste service role later in the year. Inspectors will be looking closely at the working relationships local authorities have with their service providers, whether they are contractors or in-house teams and at any changes that have been made to improve the health and safety standards.

For more information

The new guidance and more details about procuring and managing contracts is available at www.hse.gov.uk/waste/services/index.htm