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Waste management firms have been urged to improve their safety record by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

Speaking at the Environmental Service Association's Improving Health and Safety Performance in the Waste Management Sector seminar, James Barrett, head of manufacturing at the HSE, called on companies to work with their customers and the HSE to reduce the number of deaths and accidents.

Mr Barrett said while he realized that improvements were being made much more needs to be done to address a woeful industry safety record.

According to Paul Harvey, principal inspector for the HSE, the waste management industry has made steady progress in a number of key safety areas, such as the provision of high-visibility personal protective clothing, but is failing to provide adequate equipment in other areas.

Equipment attached to trucks for operatives to wash themselves in the event of contamination are woefully inadequate, while the redesign of many vehicles to protect workers from heavy lifting or contamination is also required.

Environmental Data Interactive quoted Mr Harvey saying: "With the obvious, long established issues we've got a chance. But when we start talking about some of the newer issues, the industry has to work a bit harder on that.

"I can see that the industry is moving in the right direction and our inspectors are finding many cases of good practice showing you can do it and you can do it right."

"You need to keep doing that for the sake of the workers and the industry."

Some 235 people in the UK were killed at work in 2005, with over 30,000 major injuries. HSE figures also revealed that two million people were made sick from their work last year, costing the UK economy £14 billion annually through injury and ill health.

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