The importance of risk management in the waste and recycling industry

September 17, 2021

The waste and recycling industry is notoriously hard to secure insurance for; most notably due to the pandemic and increased fire risk, which is particularly prevalent over summer months.


There are, however, key risk management processes you can implement to reduce the risks your business is exposed to, which will in turn help you secure affordable insurance. Below, we identify key processes which should form part of your business’s risk management strategy.




Reduction in staff leading to unattended parts of the site could pose a higher fire risk, particularly in hot weather. If your business has reduced its staff numbers, are there personnel present within all areas of the site and buildings and/or are there dedicated fire watch personnel onsite?




As standard, facilities must be fully licenced; but with a recent increase in household waste, you must keep a careful eye on accepting the amount of waste your facility is licenced to.




When securing insurance, a general housekeeping statement is required that should include the condition of the building, machinery and plant used and overall appearance of the site and operations. Housekeeping should be a key part of your business’s risk management strategy.


Fire detection systems


Another key part your risk management strategy is that commentary is required on the adequacy of existing fire alarm systems including the type of detectors, age of system etc. Your business’s fire detection systems should be in full working order and maintained on a regular basis.


RiskSure, who undertake waste site surveys, believe that early warning fire detection should be present at all facilities where bulk storage, waste recycling and processing is undertaken.


  • Batteries


“Battery fires are one of the most important issue impacting recyclers currently”- Emmanuel Katrakis, EuRic.


If you store batteries on your site, you should have measures in place to deal with this type of waste and bulk storage of batteries should be in a location designed with this purpose in mind. The area should be subject to a fire risk assessment in compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (or equivalent) and in compliance with the DSEAR Regulations to ensure that it is remote from identified hazard zones.


Battery charging and storage areas should be protected by automatic fire detection and alarm installations and be designed, installed, and maintained by an accredited engineer. The installation of automatic fixed fire suppression systems is strongly recommended in areas where batteries are stored, especially where lithium-ion and lithium polymer batteries are stored in bulk.


  • Dust management


Waste and recycling sites produce large amounts of dust which can build around the plant and areas of buildings, e.g., beams, and can pose a fire risk. One method of risk management is to install venting and extraction solutions to help mitigate dust build-up.




Stockpile arrangements should be consistent with the capability of the plant i.e., tonnes in/tonnes out capacity. An effective risk management action is to separate waste in conformant waste bunker/bays as this helps reduce fire risk.


  • External


You must be mindful of stack arrangements and compliant to the latest guidance with fire separation between each stack. In hot seasons, it is recommended that temperature probes or similar are used for stockpiles and that they are dampened down at regular intervals to reduce fire risk.


  • Internal


To manage risk effectively, it is recommended that combustible material is stored away from fixed machinery and plant, or suitable fire breaks are present. In hot weather, we recommend checking stock temperature with probes and cooling down stock. It is also good practice to have water supply and a hose reel available throughout the building/site.


Shut Down Procedures


  • Logging


Businesses operating in the waste and recycling industry should be vigilant, ensuring their Shut Down Procedures are adhered to. Shut Down Procedures may involve clearing down all contents and removing waste from in and around the facility of the plant. They may also include an end of day walk round site fire watch. It’s advisable that these be logged and included in a site diary.


  • Last time of acceptance


When securing insurance, this must be discussed as part of your risk management strategy. This is due to the fire risk posed by waste that is accepted and not sorted through at the end of the day. Any late incoming materials could be quarantined, or early warning detection systems could be used such as thermal probes and thermal imaging. Different insurers have different requirements; however, it is advised that the process is included within your business’s site diary.


Vehicle and plant maintenance


A maintained piece of plant is much less risky, particularly conveyors and machines with moving parts.




How we can help


Working with an insurance broker that specialises in the waste and recycling industry is vital to ensure your business is appropriately protected, through insurance and risk management processes.


We are proud to be the market-leading insurance broker in this sector and we can provide you with seamless access to our in-house waste facility which has unique benefits, including enhanced coverage and limited conditions and exclusions.

Get in touch with our dedicated team today:


020 7977 4800

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