A waste management firm has been fined a total of £3 million following the deaths of two workers in separate incidents.
Loading and unloading can be dangerous. Machinery can seriously hurt people. Heavy loads, moving or overturning vehicles and working at height can all lead to injuries or death. UK stats show that 135 workers killed in work-related accidents (2022/23) and the transport and waste and recycling industries continue to contribute to workplace fatalities, with 21 deaths across the two sectors in 2022/23.
An employee, who was using a forklift truck to load a lorry with rows of bales had loaded three rows of bales already then attempted to load a fourth row.
However, while loading the fourth row, some bales in the third row were dislodged and fell off the lorry, fatally crushing the employee as each bale weighed at least 820kg.
A HSE investigation found it was not custom and practice at the company’s site for bales to be loaded onto lorries by fork lift truck operators at the same time the lorry driver was strapping bales which had previously been loaded onto the lorry flatbed.
Systems were in place for drivers to remain within their cabs, or in some other safe location away from the loading activity, but this was not adhered to at the time of the incident.
HSE guidance can be found at: Loading & unloading Vehicles safely (hse.gov.uk)
The second incident involved the employee using a lorry to lift two skips at the same time, deploying a method called ‘hot swapping’.
However, the skips were not compatible, as they were of different dimensions, and fell at an angle onto the back of the lorry. He then got onto the lorry bed to rectify the situation but the skips overbalanced and fatally struck him.
A HSE investigation into this incident found the company had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment into skip operations meaning that safe systems of work and appropriate training were not implemented, and skips were not maintained in an efficient state. Furthermore, sizes were not displayed on the skips themselves.
HSE guidance can be found at: Waste and recycling industries – Collection – Skip hire and waste transfer (hse.gov.uk)
Alan Hughes, senior enforcement lawyer at HSE, said: “These were two men at different stages of their lives, but the grief and pain across both families is devastating.
“Both deaths were avoidable. More needs to be done to make the use of vehicles on waste and recycling sites safer. We have a wealth of advice and guidance freely available.”
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Health and safety risk assessments help you to identify anything that could cause injury in your workplace.
To be legally compliant, organisations need to do regular health and safety risk assessments to reduce workplace harm and eliminate costly fines. Often, it’s not about eliminating risk completely, it’s about controlling the risk and providing a safe framework that your workplace can adhere to and protect the safety of your employees.
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