23 June, 2023
Chelmsford City Council has been fined £80,000 after a father-of-three died when he was struck by a bin lorry after being hit by the rear and underside of a reversing bin lorry. The employee was working as a loader operative for Chelmsford City Council at the time of the incident.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Chelmsford City Council failed to effectively manage the risks presented by moving refuse vehicles, provide training and instruction for agency workers on safe procedures for reversing and the use of hand signals. The local authority also failed to effectively monitor its employees' working practices.
Chelmsford City Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The local authority was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £61,065 in costs at Chelmsford Crown Court on 16 June 2023.
HSE Inspector Saffron Turnell said: "Several health and safety management failings were identified by this public organisation which led to inconsistent systems of work and provision of training in the high-risk activity of waste collection.
"Local authorities and companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to hold to account those that fall below the required standards."
The waste management and recycling industry are high risk industries. Over the years there have been several incidents of either pedestrians or employees being severely injured or dying as a result of being struck by a moving vehicle. The HSE annual statistics confirm that 3.5% (3,500) of workers in waste suffered from work related ill health and over a five year period 37% of deaths were classified as "Struck by moving vehicle" between 2017-2022.
Risk assessments are key to minimising the risk of foreseeable harm especially on standard routes. They should take into account the sensitive nature of the area and neighbourhood local factors. Organisations need to ensure that they have robust safe systems of work and consider and assess whether they can eliminate the need for reversing and use of reversing assistants. Over the last decade there has also been significant advancement in technology on modern vehicles with use of CCTV, radar detectors and alarms as helpful aids. It goes without saying in all safe working procedures that Information, Instruction and training of key personnel involved in domestic or commercial waste collection will always be a requirement with an expectation that safe working procedures are being followed and subject to regular and robust audit checks.
Overall, in the last decade significant improvements have been made to ensure that employees and members of the public are kept safe and risks minimised when domestic and commercial waste collection is taking place.
In addition to any regulatory fine and prosecution costs which the local authority will be responsible for, there is also likely to be a civil claim by the estate of the deceased under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and/or The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934.
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