Three members of the public were killed last year after sleeping in bins or skips which were later taken to recycling sites, it has emerged.
The statistic emerged as part of the annual release of workplace fatalities by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) yesterday, which covered the financial year between April 2017 and March 2018. (For the full HSE fatalities list, see below)
In September 2017, Adam Forrester, 30, from Stoke on Trent, became the first fatality of the year, when he slept in a skip and was later found dead nearby at a site run by Brown Recycling in Burslem.
Three months later, in December, James McLaren was found at a site run by Max Recycle, with investigations showing the 28-year-old had slept in a bin after a night out in Sunderland with friends.
The following month, 47-year-old Russel Lane was tipped into a lorry owned by Veolia Rochester, after sleeping in a bin. He passed away from his injuries nine days later.
The HSE explained all three deaths as a result of “coming into contact with machinery”, with the incidents also adding to a range of warnings from charities and the authorities on the danger of sleeping in bins.
The concept of people sleeping in bins is not a new one. In 2010, the HSE developed a guidance, called ‘people in commercial waste containers’, in response to calls from industry for clearer ways of working. In the past, there have also been a number of fatalities involving people sleeping in bins, with three, for example, reported in 2012/13 (see letsrecycle.com story).
The guidance included advice on risk assessments, the checking of bins, actions to take on discovering a person and examples of good practice within the industry, such as recognising high-risk locations and ensuring employees are properly briefed and trained, to help companies understand what they need to do.
Several campaigns since then have also tried to raise awareness of the issue, including B&M Waste Management, which released a video last year (see letsrecycle.com story).
Speaking to letsrecycle.com, a spokesperson from B&M said the campaign is ongoing, and they will be continuing it this year.
“Our ‘Refuse not Refuge’ campaign has been ongoing since last year. Throughout the winter we were raising awareness of the issue, particularly those in higher education, to let people know that a bin is a very dangerous place to sleep and to highlight the risks of doing so. We are continuing this campaign this winter as well.”
The latest figures from the HSE show the overall deaths in the sector, excluding members of the public, stands at 12. Although slightly down from last year, it remains 50% higher than the average sector rate for the last five years, which stand at 8. The HSE data does not include fatalities where another authority, such as a council, is responsible for health and safety regulations and prosecutions.
The average age of the 12 people who died in the waste sector last year stands at 42, with every fatality being male. This largely reflects UK industry as a whole, with 96% of all workplace fatalities being male and the majority being over 40.
Overall, the amount of fatalities in the sector has fallen by two from last year. However, last year included one incident with five fatalities, at Shredmet recycling in Birmingham (See letsrecycle.com story).
This year, there were no incidents in the sector with more than one fatality, as outlined in the table below (click to enlarge).
Commenting on the table, a statement from the HSE said the table is “the collated picture of ‘as reported’ information on fatalities and does not purport to be a formal statistical release. Subsequent investigation may determine that some are not reportable under RIDDOR, for example deaths due to natural causes.”
The statement added: “Also, this list only gives details of the fatalities where HSE is the enforcing authority.”
Commenting on the latest figures, Rick Brunt, head of the vulnerable workers, agriculture, waste and recycling unit reiterated to letsrecycle.com, the HSE’s call for the industry to “show leadership” to change the sector.
“Every death is a tragedy and each number represents a person who went to work and didn’t come home to their family and friends,” Mr Brunt explained.
He continued: “HSE’s Sector Plan for Waste and Recycling emphasises the need for industry to show the leadership and collaboration required to bring about a real and lasting change in this sector. I call on industry leaders to step up their efforts and keep their focus on driving down the death rate across all parts of the industry.”