HSENI's role in the waste industry

In relation to the waste industry, HSENI’s primary role is to protect those at work in waste and recycling activities and anyone who might be affected by that work, for example members of the public.

Waste – who does what?

There are many activities that fall outside the HSENI’s areas of responsibility which may be covered by powers held by other national or local government bodies. 

For waste management and recycling examples would include:

  • collection activities
  • environmental and public nuisance issues
  • planning or permitting issues

Collection activities

It is the local authority who has responsibility for waste and recycling collections in a particular area. That service may be provided directly by the local authority itself or it may have contracted out the service to a specialist contractor. In either case the first point of contact for issues relating to the collection of your waste or recyclables should be the Local Authority.

Another useful source of information on waste and recycling services can be found at the Waste Resource Action Programme (WRAP) website.

Environmental and public nuisance issues

Local Authorities are empowered to deal with a wide range of issues that are not the responsibility of the HSENI. Usually these matters (e.g. odour, noise, vermin infestation) are dealt with by the Local Authority's Environmental Health Dept.

Planning or permitting issues

HSENI is not responsible for planning permissions for the siting of or permitting of waste and recycling facilities.

Those aspects are dealt with by the Planning Service and the local authority in which the activity takes place.

What is WISHNI?

The Waste Industry Safety and Health forum for Northern Ireland (WISHNI) is a multi-party forum made up of organisations broadly representing the waste and recycling industry.

WISHNI members include representatives from HSENI, main trade associations, professional associations, trade unions, recycling organisations and national and local government bodies involved in waste management and recycling. Its purpose is to provide information, identify solutions and stimulate action across the industry to ensure the health, safety and well-being of those working in the industry and those affected by its activities.WISHNI launch

In January 2009, the WISH(GB) forum launched its charter and strategic objectives to improve performance in the industry over a four-year period (January 2009 to December 2013). The strategy has five key objectives:

  • reducing accident numbers by 10 per cent year on year over five years
  • reduction in the number of working days lost due to accident and ill health
  • promotion of effective health and safety management
  • improved safety culture and attitudes in the workforce
  • increase in the levels of competenceWISHNI launch

On March 2012 WISHNI was launched. WISHNI shares similar goals to the main WISH forum in GB, but has the flexibility to develop topics specific to NI.

I live near a composting site that smells - is my health at risk?


HSENI is not the enforcing authority for issues relating to odours and complaints should be referred to the appropriate local authority, environmental health department or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Composted material may have a distinctive smell, depending on the feedstock, for example if it contains a large proportion of pine branches there will be the characteristic resin smell. The volatile chemicals responsible for smells are gases, which are smaller in size and lighter than particles of dust and bio aerosols (mould spores and bacterial cells in the air) behave like small particles of dust. Consequently, gases can travel further in the air than the heavier particles, which drop from the air under gravity. Some odorous gases can be smelled at extremely low concentration.

Sometimes, if composting activities are poorly managed, the compost becomes 'anaerobic' (oxygen starved) which causes the bacteria in the compost to create different chemicals with unpleasant smells. In many cases, this can be avoided: if it occurs you should complain to the compost site or bring it to the attention of the local authority.

Bioaerosols, including those from compost, are like any other small dust particles in the air. They can move and be carried along in air currents before falling to the ground under gravity. If the wind direction and strength is known, it is possible to predict in what direction and how far a bioaerosol will travel away from the source of its release. As it is carried by air currents from that source, it will be dispersed and therefore diluted in concentration as it mixes with the surrounding air. Local conditions will affect this; for example, the warmth from a compost pile will make the bioaerosol rise higher in the air, and nearby buildings, trees, fences etc will also push the air current higher into the air, causing more mixing with the surrounding air and dilution of the bioaerosol.

Most published studies on compost bioaerosol exposure and health have focused on the exposure of workers on sites handling the material, because their exposure will be greatest. Some studies have looked at the effect of composting activities on surrounding bioaerosol concentrations. A limited number of studies have looked at the health of nearby residents. While it is recognised from these studies that under certain conditions composting activities nearby may raise bioaerosol concentrations above background levels, these concentrations are much lower than would occur on a composting site near to compost material being handled. There is no reported evidence of significant increase in ill health in residents near composting sites in these situations. The lungs of a healthy person are capable of being exposed to relatively large concentrations of micro-organisms without ill effect.

For more information on composting and recycling biodegradable waste can be found at:


How do I safely dispose of a LPG Cylinder?

Parts of the waste management and recycling industry have problems dealing with unwanted or unidentifiable (‘orphaned’) compressed gas cylinders that turn up in the waste stream. In addition, other cylinders such as fire extinguishers can contain small internal CO2 cylinders under high pressure.

Discarded cylinders which still contain containing compressed gases, (or which are apparently empty but in fact still contain some residual content) commonly appear in the waste stream, especially at civic amenity sites and metal recyclers.


The quantities of compressed gas cylinders on a civic amenity sites or metal recycling site should be kept as low as is reasonably practicable within the limits of the safe storage facilities that have been provided, and they should be collected on a regular basis. It may take quite some time for smaller civic amenity sites and metals recyclers to accumulate sufficient cylinders to require a collection.


Particular problems can arise when cylinders that are concealed within other metal waste is processed at metal recycling sites. Rupture of the cylinders within the fragmentisers or shredders can cause explosions. Sites should have suitable systems in place to remove, so far as reasonably practicable, all cylinders from the waste stream prior to reduce the potential of such incidents.

Further information can be found at:

What do I need to know about transport lifting operations and when does LOLER apply?

Transport related lifting operations can cause serious personal injury or death. Whilst it is not comprehensive, the advice covers transport-related lifting operations involving the use of:

  • hoists fitted to refuse collection vehicles
  • lifting equipment fitted to skip loaders
  • lifting equipment on Hookloader and Skid steer loader vehicles
  • material handlers (e.g. 360o excavators fitted with grabs, forks or magnets)
  • skips and other containers

Further information on transport related lifting operations is available at:

Do I need to be trained to operate vehicles and plant on a waste site?

The training requirements for drivers of plant eg shovel loaders, excavators, fork lift trucks (FLTs), telehandlers etc. in a waste and recycling setting will be no different to other industry sectors (e.g. general manufacturing, construction and agriculture). Driver competence is judged on the basis of experience, recognised training (formal training – either deliver in-house or externally) and testing of knowledge and ability.

No-one should be allowed to drive (operate) a vehicle unless their employer has authorised them to do so in writing. The employer should not authorise a driver unless the driver has received adequate training and the employer is satisfied that the driver is competentto operate the shovel loader.

Certificates of training from recognised training schemes help demonstrate competence. But employers are perfectly entitled to devise and operate their own in-house training schemes - this is especially the case with some larger companies.

While employers may operate their own in-house training schemes, they should have similar content to the more formal training courses that are available. Furthermore, they may find it useful to have the courses delivered by an Accredited Training Provider.

Further information on plant operator training and general training requirements can be found on the HSE Waste and Recycling Training page.

What are the hazards associated with offensive/hygiene waste?

‘Offensive/hygiene’ waste is produced by healthcare (medical care) practices or healthcare workers in the community and as well as that produced by domestic households from personal use. These wastes can be found in the municipal waste and recycling streams and they have the potential to cause ill health to workers handling them. Typical effects can be:

  • skin/eye infections (eg conjunctivitis)
  • gastroenteritis (symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting)

Offensive/hygiene wastes can include:

  • human and animal waste (faeces), incontinence pads, catheter and stoma bags, nappies, sanitary waste, nasal secretions, sputum, condoms, urine, vomit and soiled human bedding from a noninfectious source
  • medical/veterinary items of disposable equipment such as gowns, plaster casts etc
  • plasters (minor first aid or self care) generated by personal use
  • animal hygiene wastes (animal bedding, dog faeces etc)
  • waste from non healthcare activities, for example wastes from body piercing or application of tattoos

Offensive/hygiene waste should only be processed by licensed facilities capable of safe handling and disposal.

Further information on this subject is available at:

Key legislation

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.