Waste industry 'more dangerous than Iraq'

Nine deaths in eight weeks have marked out working in the waste and recycling industry as one of the most dangerous professions in Britain.

Between December 21, 2005 and February 21, 2006 the Health & Safety Executive received reports of eight fatalities within the industry itself and a ninth death of a member of public who was hit by a waste removal vehicle.

To put the scale of the problem in perspective the MoD reported the deaths of three servicemen in Iraq during the same period.

While the number deaths in the waste sector in recent weeks is uncharacteristically high it is an industry plagued with fatalities.

The latest wave of fatalities has prompted the HSE to issue a safety alert to the industry, asking waste managers to review their safety procedures.

In seven of the nine incidents the victims were struck by vehicles.

Paul Harvey, principal inspector of HSE's Waste and Recycling Section said: "The tragedy of these incidents must act as a stimulus for the industry to review its procedures, making sure that vehicle risks are properly controlled.

"Wherever possible pedestrians and vehicles should be segregated, paying special attention to transfer stations and sorting areas. Street collection activities need to address the risks to collection staff and other road and pavement users."

"Using reversing aids such as mirrors, CCTV, detectors and beacons do reduce the risks. In most public access areas you will usually need to provide reversing assistants, their job being to help the driver and prevent or warn pedestrians entering manoeuvring areas when the risks cannot be controlled adequately by other means."

HSE has now launched an information service to give specific guidance on safety within the industry with its online Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum.

The website also includes less industry-specific information on the safe use of workplace transport here.

Timeline of the fatal accidents under investigation:

  • 21 February 2006 a fork lift truck operator crushed when the vehicle overturned at a scrap yard in Lowestoft, Suffolk;
  • 16 February 2006, member of the public struck by refuse collection vehicle in Weybridge, Surrey;
  • 2 February 2006 a member of the public was found dead inside a waste paper compacting machine in Birmingham;
  • 2 February 2006 a waste picker was run over by a mechanical shovel at a recycling centre near Hartley-Witney, Hampshire;
  • 30 January 2006 a member of the public was run over by a reversing bin lorry in Wigton, Cumbria;
  • 30 January 2006 a binman run over by his own vehicle whilst collecting household waste in Morpeth, Northumberland;
  • 27 January 2006 a bulldozer driver died on a landfill site in Brogborough, Bedfordshire after becoming caught on his vehicle;
  • 25 January 2006 a crane collapsed on a customer at a scrap yard in High Ongar, Essex;
  • 21 December 2005 a binman was hit by a car when collecting wheelie bins in Bournemouth.

    by Sam Bond

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