The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has warned that the sector must be vigilant in checking bins to make sure homeless and drunk people or those on drugs are not sleeping inside.
Three deaths were recorded last year and the ESA said one of its members alone reported 100 near misses – where a person was found inside the container only just before it was tipped.
MRW reported that a previous industry initiative had restarted after trailing off in 2017.
Colder weather can force rough sleepers to seek out shelter in large bins. But the ESA warns that party-goers under the influence of drink or drugs have also sought out bins to sleep in.
The ESA said: “The risks are not necessarily limited to winter or homeless people. Our members report that such incidents are just as likely to occur year-round and, furthermore, there have been as many incidents involving late-night revellers sleeping in bins as homeless people.
“Unfortunately, there have been tragic incidents where people have sought refuge in a container following a social event or night out and, often under the influence of drink or drugs, have remained unconscious during the tipping of the container into the refuse vehicle.”
People are more likely to seek shelter in commercial containers above 660-litre such as eurocarts, front-end loader containers, paladins and skips.
The ESA said containers of paper, cardboard and dry or mixed recycling are favoured because they will be more comfortable to sleep in. People have also been found sleeping in bins containing mixed residual waste.
How to check a bin and what to do if someone is sleeping inside
The ESA recommends the following search:
- A manual check should be carried out on all large containers before putting the container on to the lifting mechanism
- First check the area surrounding a container to make sure there is nothing that could have been used to access the bin
- Look for signs that someone might have gained access such as blankets, rucksacks, sleeping bags
- Look for obvious signs of disturbance of the waste close to a likely point of access
- Lift the lid of the bin without endangering the person doing the check
- Visually check the surface of the contents for any sign of disturbance
- To search the rubbish, use a tool such as brush or shovel to gently move the contents if there is suspicion or evidence of a person inside
- Drivers and loaders need to be aware of the type of waste expected in the container
- Tapping or banging the side of the container is recommended
- Any evidence of someone sleeping inside should be reported to management
On discovering a person inside a bin, the ESA recommends:
- Never empty the container into the vehicle
- Medical assistance must be sought where required
- If the person has sustained an injury as a result of being lifted and/or emptied into a collection vehicle, it must immediately be reported to management
- No attempts should be made to restrain any person found inside a container
- If a person found inside a container should become aggressive, the operator should get into the vehicle cab, lock the doors and report to management
- All incidents – even ’near misses’ – should be reported to management because they can be used to help prevent future incidents