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Fatal Accidents in the Waste and Recycling Sector

The waste industry can be a hazardous sector to work in, with 5% of workers sustaining a non-fatal work-related injury every year, and a further 5% developing an illness they believe to be work-related.

In the last five years, Health and Safety Executive figures show that 30 waste industry workers lost their lives at work, with six deaths occurring in 2015/16 alone.

Fatal Injury Caused by Employer’s Failings

A Kent-based waste and recycling company recently appeared in court on health and safety charges after one of its workers died when a pile of waste material collapsed on top of him.

The employee in question was working close to the pile of waste material after connecting a shredder to the loading shovel he was driving. He died of asphyxiation whilst under the pile of waste that appeared to be over eight-metres-high.

When the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident, it found that the company had failed to undertake and prepare risk assessments or safe systems of work for the creation and management of the stockpiles or adequate training.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £38,373. The judge indicated that is the company had not been in administration the fine would have been between £600,000 and £1.3million.

Worker Receives Fatal Crush Injuries

Earlier this year, the courts heard the case of another tragic death in the waste industry, this time as a result of crush injuries caused by a refuse collection vehicle.

The worker had been standing at the rear of the vehicle, when the vehicle’s operator, who was located in the cab, closed the tailgate, fatally crushing him to death.

The HSE investigation found that it should not have been possible to completely close the tailgate using the in-cab controls. A minimum gap of 1m should have been left between the bottom edges of the body and the tailgate. However, the safety limit switch was jammed in the actuated position resulting in it being possible to completely close the tailgate using the in-cab controls.

The HSE also found evidence of a poor system of work, derived from a lack of a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks, including failure to prop the tailgate adequately.

In addition, there had been a failure in the inspection regime, which did not systematically review the functionality of the 1m safety limit switch (a designated safety function) on relevant refuse collection vehicles. Had the fault with the 1m safety limit switch been identified and rectified, the poor system of work would have been unable to result in the closure of the tailgate causing the entrapment of the worker.

The two companies involved in the incident both pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations. One was fined £750,000 and the other £65,000.

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