The Environment Agency has joined forces with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the North East to carry out combined visits to check waste sites aren’t flouting important legislation.
This ongoing multi-agency approach aims to improve working practices on regulated sites.
The joint initiative, named Operation Hercules, focuses on sites that recycle, process or store waste, from scrap vehicles to general household waste. Operators use a variety of processes and equipment to store, sort and process waste which have the potential to expose workers to risks to health and safety.
The aim of these visits is two-fold; to make sure the sites are operating within the conditions of their Environmental Permit to protect the environment and community, while ensuring the health and safety of workers isn’t put at risk.
Carla Metcalf, Waste Specialist for the Environment Agency, said:
We manage our permitted sites every single day to ensure they are operating within the law, to protect the environment and to minimise impact on the local community.
Health and safety is paramount when our officers are visiting sites and officers regularly contact HSE if they feel a site is unsafe.
These joint operations are a really good opportunity to share knowledge with other agencies and mean we look at the site from different perspectives, ensuring any issues impacting on the environment and community can be looked at together with site safety.
Inspector Victoria Wise from the Health and Safety Executive added:
In the last five years 39 workers and 11 members of the public have been killed because of work activity in the sector. The main causes of death are people being run over or struck by a moving vehicle. A high number of workers in this industry are also exposed to processes that cause irreversible ill health conditions.
During the last joint regional initiative HSE found all eight sites visited to be in significant contravention of health and safety law. HSE and the Environment Agency have therefore agreed to run the initiative again throughout this region in November.
Joint operations such as this mean we can work alongside the Environment Agency to make sure those responsible for the sites are not exposing workers, members of the public and the environment to harm from the operations they undertake.
During the last series of joint visits at the back end of 2016, HSE and the Environment Agency attended eight sites across the region.