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According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) nearly one fifth of local authorities are not following important health and safety guidelines whilst procuring and managing waste and recycling contracts.


An inspection initiative of the 407 councils in England, Scotland and Wales to determine areas of improvement was launched by the HSE to determine areas where improvement is needed. The initiative was launched in October 2010 and will see all council surveyed by October 2013.

Half-way through the initiative the HSE have established that there are a few local authorities where there is room for improvement.

Guidance has therefore also been published by the HSE as part of the survey; this guidance can help local authorities comply with health and safety requirements when dealing with waste and recycling services.

All council have a legal obligation to manage health and safety, as do service providers, whether they are in-house or contractors. Therefore the HSE said these joint responsibilities should be reflected in the contract documentation.

19% of the 171 councils that have been visited since March 2012 were found to be non-compliant in relation to managing and procuring waste services. In addition, one prohibition notice and 27 improvement notices were served and the HSE that 26% of councils have sub-standard frameworks for monitoring and reviewing health and safety, and 28% sub-standard risk assessments of activities.

Potential Improvement

Janet Viney, HM Inspector of health and safety said:

“The responsibility for making arrangements for all household waste and recycling services rests with local authorities.”

She went onto say:

“Each service is subject to a procurement process, placing local authorities in the role of client. Evidence from previous inspection initiatives highlights the potential for further improvement to be made in the health and safety standards of waste and recycling services, regardless of whether the service is delivered in-house or contracted out.”

Ms Viney said that the initiative had been undertaken in a bid to reduce the high accident rate in the waste and recycling industry.

Janet Viney added that health and safety is an integral part of procuring and managing waste and recycling contracts.


HSE inspectors review procurement and management policies of local authorities, they are also assessing collection activities, review management and safety representatives.

If there is a need to help produce an action plan, the HSE inspectors will assist as well.

The scoring worked on a scale of 1 to 6, 6 being unacceptable standards and if scored a 1 they are awarded a high standard.

According to the HSE councils were performing well in a number of areas including manual handling, health and welfare, vehicle transport and PPE.

There are however a number of areas which need to be improved, Areas where future intervention is likely to be needed, these areas include:

  • Procurement and management of the service / contract;
  • Monitoring and reviewing the contract;
  • Route risk assessment;
  • Hearing protection; and,
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of supervision.

Follow-up visits will be undertaken to councils who are found to be non-compliant.

Improvement Guidance

In order to assist local authorities the HSE have produced specific guidance for local authorities, these include case studies and advice.

The guidance can be found here:

Ms Viney commented on the guidance:

“As part of that project, the sector in consultation with the industry has produced specific guidance aimed at local authorities when procuring and managing waste services, together with associated practical case studies. The guidance is structured to reflect the key stages of the contract management process and outlines a number of key features and principles of good practice associated with each of these steps.”

The HSE have said that the inspection initiative is designed to make local authorities aware of the guidance and offer them a point of reference against which they can measure their performance. This guidance will be updated as the study continues and the HSE welcome further case studies from the waste and recycling industry that could be included.


Health and Safety Executive

Let’s Recycle