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Warning over lack of checks for people in bins

More than two thirds of organisations do not have formal policies in place to prevent incidents with people sleeping in waste containers, a survey has suggested.

Research conducted by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) in partnership with Biffa and rough sleepers charity StreetLink indicated that only 41 respondents had a system of checks in place, out of the 176 organisations surveyed.

The sample included waste management companies, local authorities, law firms, consultancies and universities.

Twenty-eight respondents said that they had found people sheltering in bins in the previous 12 months.

Biffa and the CIWM noted that guidance on the issue was available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Homeless people accounted for 58% of the cases reported.

The researchers acknowledged the number of respondents to the questionnaires was not high enough to undertake full statistical analysis, but hoped the report would raise awareness on the issues among stakeholders.

Ian Wakelin, chief executive at Biffa, said: “Only through understanding the experiences of the waste collection sector can we ensure that we are raising awareness in the most appropriate ways, and training our staff to be vigilant in their checks.

“Protecting the lives of rough sleepers is absolutely vital and this study will bring us one step closer to that goal.”

Recently a man was crushed to death in a skip in Yorkshire. The coroner returned a verdict of accidental death and said he would be writing to Kirklees Council to “explore the possibility of remedial measures” for binmen to check skips and bins.

The HSE has investigated three fatalities in bins in 2009/2010, and a further three in 2012/13.

Measures to avoid incidents includes:

  • Instruct crew to check inside bins
  • Include people sleeping in bins in risk assessment
  • Instruct crew to bang on bins
  • Reporting and recording procedure
  • Provide bins that lock
  • Instruct crew to look for signs of homeless sleepers in area
  • Instruct customer to lock bin
  • Locate bins in a secure area
  • Provide warning labels on bins and containers

The HSE also recommends that bins being emptied by front-end loaders should, in addition to being manually checked, be tapped or banged on the floor using the lift mechanism.

The study suggested that people are most likely, though not exclusively, to be found sleeping in unlocked bins stored at the rear or side of buildings and largely in urban areas (see box below).

The most typical scenario for a recorded incident of finding someone sheltering in a bin:

  • A homeless person (58%)
  • In an urban area (88%)
  • At dawn, dusk or night (90%)
  • In wet or cold weather conditions (73%)
  • In a 1100 litre bin (65%) with no lock (50%)
  • At the rear or side of the premises (73%)


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