An alarming rise in fatalities during the last couple of months has led the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to issue a safety alert to the waste and recycling industry.
Nine deaths have been reported in the last eight weeks, with three of them in the east of England and seven resulting from people being struck by a vehicle.
The HSE is currently investigating the deaths which include a forklift truck operator crushed under an overturned vehicle, a waste picker run over by a mechanical shovel and a member of the public found dead in a waste paper compacting machine in Birmingham.
HSE principal inspector Paul Harvey said: “The tragedy of these incidents must act as a stimulus for the industry to review its procedures, making sure that vehicle risks are properly controlled.
“Wherever possible, pedestrians and vehicles should be segregated. Special attention should be paid at transfer stations and sorting areas. Street collection activities need to address the risks to collection staff and other road and pavement users.”
The fatalities in the east of England happened in Suffolk, Bedfordshire and Essex in the space of just one month, and while vigilance has been called for in those areas, refuse collectors in Wales have also been urged to be more aware of potential dangers at work.
HSE (Wales) has issued the specific safety alert after it was revealed that eight people, including one member of the public were seriously injured in the principality between 2003 and 2005.
Harvey added: “Using reversing aids such as mirrors, CCTV, detectors and beacons do reduce the risks. In most public access areas you will usually need to provide reversing assistants, their job being to help the driver and prevent or warn pedestrians entering manoeuvring areas when then risks cannot be controlled adequately by other means.”
Special guidance has been developed with the Waste Industry Safety and Health forum, available at www.hse.gov.uk.