Tech is only as good as the people using it

All employers have both a legal and moral responsibility to ensure a safe working environment with this being all the more important in high-risk industries.
Photo: ZoneSafe
David Thomas: General Manager ZoneSafe

The nature of waste and recycling operation make this industry stand out in terms of workplace accidents and injury with the sector reporting around 4000 non-fatal injuries at work on average every year. Falls from height, collision with moving vehicles, crushing incidents and injuries from improper use of machinery are just some examples of commonplace events.

The use of industrial machinery, heavy goods vehicles, forklift trucks, loaders and power tools create opportunity for workplace injury and sadly on occasion, fatalities within the sector. In 2019/20 there were five fatal injuries recorded in the UK waste sector with 30% of these involving being struck by a moving vehicle and a further 30% from contact with moving machinery. While the workplace fatality rate has gone down from an average of nine deaths over the previous five years, the waste sector still sadly reports a fatal injury rate 18 times that of the average rate across all industries.

The evolution of workplace safety technology offers great potential to make industrial operations safer with state-of-the-art solutions equipped to address a wide range of known risk factors. Solutions that signal operators and pedestrians when in close proximity, anti-collision alert systems, RFID technology, 360-degree cameras, interactive crossings and audible/visual alerts help in increasing the situational awareness of personnel which undoubtedly makes for a safer working environment. New and emerging safety threats including the outbreak of Covid-19, have presented businesses with new considerations for safe operation, including, person-to-person protection and enhanced hygiene. Technology manufacturers have been quick to respond, offering new and innovative solutions to enable safe working practise during and beyond the pandemic.

Technology supports safety, helping to make day-to-day operational activity run smoothly with reduced risk. However, it is essential that technology investment forms part of a whole solution, encompassing procedures, training, and a clear overall safety culture within an organisation. Safety technology is only one part of the solution; operators need to know how to use it effectively and have thorough knowledge of the correct company procedures around its operation. By providing effective training to support new procedures and equipment, staff are more likely to buy in and technology can be used to its full potential leading to a safer working environment.

During installation of any new technology, equipment manufacturers should deploy system experts to ensure a thorough understanding of the product and provide onboarding training to new users or company trainers. Refresher training should also be considered to ensure a thorough understanding of technology in relation to changing safety procedures or legislation. Employers should identify additional risk factors within the operational team including the extension of equipment training and procedural awareness to everyone involved with new technology including temporary and contract staff.

The waste and recycling work environment is a dangerous one, so safeguards must be put in place to protect workers from preventable accidents. Sadly, work related injuries and fatalities do occur but these are avoidable when innovative safety technology is combined with thorough training of staff and robust safety procedures. The provision of training alongside technology investment gives staff the tools and the tech needed to empower employees protect themselves and those around them.


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