Show you mean business on safety

Written by: Andy Dobson | Published:
the waste and recycling sector has a statistically higher rate of workplace injury and work-related ill health than many other sectors

The perception of the waste industry is extremely varied. For some it carries the stigmas of the past as being a grubby and basic industry that hauls away waste to holes in the ground.

In order to succeed, a modern waste management company needs to be as far away from this as possible.

It needs to be innovative, provide solutions in partnership with its clients, satisfy their demands for sustainability and ensure all aspects of the business comply with complex legislation. This includes health and safety more than ever.

Sadly, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports show the waste and recycling sector has a statistically higher rate of workplace injury and work-related ill health than other sectors, and workers in waste management are more likely to suffer work-related illness than any other sector. These are statistics we recognise but don’t intend to be a part of.

When Total Recycling Services is moving a customer’s waste, we recognise we are literally taking their reputation in our hands and we will seek to employ or better the same standards as our customers wherever we can.

Nowhere is this more important than with health and safety.

We have retained the ISO 9001,14001 and 18001 standards pretty much since our inception and have provided a focus for our management systems throughout.

This focus has been invaluable during periods of growth, when the temptation is to be distracted by finance, resourcing and simply making customers happy.

ISO 45001 – the brand-new health and safety certification introduced by the International Organization for Standardization – was a natural choice for us. It’s very easy for companies to state that safety is a core value, but achieving a qualification like this shows you mean business.

We want our customers to know how seriously we take health and safety, as well as having that platform to really influence our management systems.

Our business is diverse

Moving recyclables is a tiny part of what we do. We operate balers, shredders and granulators to achieve the best recycling rates and reduce our carbon footprint.

Our tankers move tonnes of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. We collect and transport containers and drums of hazardous waste; toxic, flammable, oxidising materials that require sampling and disposal.

Our industrial service staff operate breathing apparatus, entering confined spaces and operating ultra-high-power water cleaning jets to clean tanks.

Our chemists and hazardous waste staff are responsible for the safe sampling and handling of literally hundreds of substances. Identifying and managing the associated risks is something that has to be at the forefront of what we do, every minute of the day.

Aside from demonstrating to customers we work safely at our sites, many of our services are actually carried out at their facilities, meaning our customers need to have the confidence in our company and staff, being able to not only complete the work safely, but work alongside their staff on complex projects.

How we actually undertake this work is influenced by a number of factors, some of which are out of our control.

This is where having a robust and transparent system really benefits, and it isn’t just about being able to clearly identify the risks to our staff but being able to integrate with the requirements of our customers and ensure we – both Total and the customer – are communicating and working as a team.

More than ticking boxes

A greater requirement to evaluate performance means not just ticking boxes. More than ever, we are looking at what we are and how we are carrying out our work and continually identifying more opportunities for improvement.

Feedback from staff and the customer is imperative to identifying opportunities to reduce risk or improve. Just because the job was safe and successful last time doesn’t mean there aren’t improvements that can be made.

ISO 45001 has an increased focus on the involvement of leadership and a reinforced leadership commitment. The acknowledgement of the importance of health and safety at board and management level has always been crucial, and simply having a HSE manager to instruct on behalf of the company is not necessarily enough these days.

While ISO 45001 drives an encouragement to ensure an emphasis for top management accountability for the effectiveness of management systems, it is equally important to ensure that staff and workers take an active role.

Our emphasis for training for some time has been on health and safety. I completed my IOSH Safety for Executives recently, and our HSE manager has qualified and registered to allow him to deliver and certificate the IOSH Working and Managing Safely courses.

Having the capability to deliver these courses to a required standard is a great benefit.Staff not accustomed to classroom learning can learn in their own workplace instead.

We find they feel more involved and comfortable drawing upon real-life tasks in their own working environment, and everyone benefits from the process.

These are all additional examples of where Total Recycling Services goes the extra mile to ensure that we, the customer and our staff reap the rewards of improved safety.

Andy Dobson is operations director at Total Recycling Services

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