HSE inspectors say lack of basic training and safety regimes mean none of those involved in reported accidents should have died

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A series of court judgements has shown a catalogue of what safety inspectors say were ‘entirely avoidable’ deaths and serious injuries to workers in the waste and recycling industries.

The Health and Safety Executive [HSE] has collated a series of prosecutions over the last four months, which include the death of a pensioner trapped under a bin lorry, a 21-year old killed while at work on a paper baling site and a yard foreman crushed to death at a recycling site.

While the employers in the three cases have been fined and ordered to pay costs worth more than £460,000, HSE inspectors say the lack of basic training and safety regimes mean none of the three should have died.

Derrick Baines, 76, from Langold in Nottinghamshire, was returning home from the shops on his mobility scooter when he was struck by a bin lorry in July 2008.

Earlier this month, Nottingham Crown Court heard that the driver – the sole crew member on board – only became aware something was wrong when he noticed shopping spilling into the road behind him. He stopped the lorry and found Mr Baines trapped underneath.

He had suffered multiple injuries and died later in hospital.

After the hearing HSE inspector David Butter said: “If the council had staffed the refuse collection lorry appropriately then Mr Baines would probably still be alive today.

“Very large vehicles such as this have a number of blind spots and it was impractical to expect a lone driver to reverse safely without the aid of a colleague walking behind to check the path was clear.

Nottingham Crown Court fined Bassetlaw District Council £25,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £12,987.

A west Midlands recycling company has been fined £200,000 after a 21-year-old employee died from head injuries at its paper baling site in Tipton.

Mark Bate was killed instantly when the arm of a JCB skid steer loader crushed his head on 12 June 2008.

HSE’s investigation found that he had not been formally trained, assessed or supervised in the use of the vehicle and a self-employed maintenance engineer had also used it over several months with no training.

Speaking after the hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court last May, HSE inspector David Evans said: “Mark Bate was a young man who should have had a long life ahead of him. Instead, he was killed in an entirely avoidable tragedy.

“Transport at work is one of the biggest causes of deaths in the workplace, often through insufficient training or poorly maintained vehicles. There is no excuse for such basic failings, especially as free advice is available from HSE.”

In the third incident, 56 year-old Norman Mayne from Newport died after he became trapped between a container and a skip at a recycling yard in Caerphilly in June 2008.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that Mr Mayne was carrying out one of his regular duties of locating suitable skips, when he became trapped between a stationary skip and a container that a colleague was loading onto a vehicle that had been reversed in to the yard.

An investigation by the HSE found that the company had failed to ensure the safety of its employees  because an effective system to  permit the safe movement of pedestrians and vehicles was not in place.

HSE inspector Clare Owen said: “The death of Mr Mayne could have been prevented if a few simple measures had been put in place.

“There was no effective system for managing vehicle and pedestrian movements on site, and skip storage was disorganised.

“If a clearly defined system to control vehicles was in place and the site was kept in an orderly condition, the likelihood of such an incident occurring would be dramatically reduced. It is particularly important, wherever a driver has no view of his ‘blind spot’ during reversing and loading and unloading operations, that the activity is managed and controlled.”

The HSE has also reported two other incidents in which an agency worker lost most of his arm as he attempted to clear a blockage in an unguarded conveyor system at a quarry in Kent and another in which a man received 17% burns across his body when he was sprayed with hot ash at an incineration plant in Deptford.

The HSE is currently revising many of the safety guidelines covering the waste and recycling industry, but says potentially the most dangerous areas remain the risk of collisions between vehicles or heavy machinery and workers or pedestrians.

“Such collisions are almost always serious and can be fatal,” it says.

“Accidents happen because working practices have failed to achieve effective segregation of moving vehicles from pedestrians.”


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