Serious concerns with recycling industry after multiple incidents

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Employee / workerEmployer

WorkSafe has serious concerns with safety in the waste recycling industry after several recent serious incidents.

WorkSafe Acting Executive Director Chris Kirwin said today that WorkSafe would continue to focus on the industry in an effort to improve safety standards and prevent further serious incidents.

“Recent months have been quite disastrous for the waste recycling industry, with two deaths and several very serious injuries, and this is a real cause for concern,” Mr Kirwin said.

“A major proactive inspection program on the scrap metal recycling sector conducted by WorkSafe in 2014/15 raised several serious issues, so a further proactive program was carried out in the 2015/16 financial year.

“This second program expanded the scope of the inspections to other parts of the waste collection and recycling industry, such as plastics, e-waste, green waste, liquid waste and other materials.

“Once again, serious issues emerged – the most common ones being the safe movement of mobile plant and vehicles, a lack of guarding on machinery and plant and lockout and tagging of equipment.”

Recent incidents in the waste recycling industry include:

  • A worker suffered serious injuries when trapped in the mechanism of a paper baler;
  • A worker was injured when struck by a forklift at a metal recycling workplace;
  • A worker suffered very serious injuries when his hand was crushed in a baling machine at a metal recycling workplace;
  • In August, a worker died at a recycling workplace as the result of a fall;
  • In June, a worker was very badly burned in a fire at a drum recycling workplace and later died in hospital;
  • Last week, a tyre recycling company pleaded guilty in court in relation to an incident in which a young worker had several fingers amputated; and
  • Also last week, a recycling company was fined $85,000 over a worker who died when the roof of a prefabricated hut collapsed on him.

“In the light of the number of serious incidents we have seen recently, WorkSafe will continue to have a significant focus on the waste recycling industry with a view to ensuring employers are aware of their responsibilities in providing a safe and healthy workplace,” Mr Kirwin said.

“During the most recent inspection program, we were disappointed to see that guarding of machinery was still a major issue.  Guarding of the moving parts of machinery is such a basic and easy precaution to take, and neglecting it can have devastating consequences.

“There have also been many serious and fatal incidents related to mobile plant and vehicle movement, and consequently it is one of WorkSafe’s priority areas.

“A traffic management plan needs to be devised that addresses the risk associated with traffic movement, especially where vehicles and pedestrians interact in the same area.

“WorkSafe has devised a self-assessment tool for the safe movement of vehicles and plant in workplaces, and this is available for download from WorkSafe’s website.

“Lockout and tagging was also an area of concern, illustrating the need to have lockout and tagging procedures in place and ensuring these procedures are enforced.

“Many workers have been seriously injured or killed when equipment they were working on has been left energised or accidentally activated, so it’s absolutely crucial that safe systems or work are in place.

“WorkSafe will continue to monitor the waste recycling industry closely in an effort to reduce the number of potential hazards and ensure that employers have the information they need to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.”

Further information on workplace safety and the self-assessment tool for the safe movement of vehicles and plant can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877, or on the website at

Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)

Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter

Media release
25 Nov 2016

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