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‘Avoidable fatalities’ unacceptable in the waste management sector

While safety is a key priority for recycling and waste management companies around the world, a string of incidents shows it continues to plague the sector.

This June, UK firm Restore Datashred was fined £600 000 (EUR 698 000) following the death of a 20-year-old agency worker at its plant in Crayford, London. The tragic incident took place in October 2018 and resulted in a lengthy court case. The worker was driving a forklift without a seatbelt when it overturned and he became trapped between the vehicle’s rollover protective structure and the floor, crushing him to death.  

Another high profile case involves UK waste management firm Enterprise Managed Services, which was recently fined £1 million (EUR 1.2 million) for failing to carry out an appropriate risk assessment. The ruling comes years after the fatal incident in April 2016 when one of the company’s trucks reversed, killing a site worker standing in a blind spot. The on-board cameras also failed to detect the man.

David Biderman, ceo of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), maintains ‘the sad truth’ is that there are too many ‘avoidable fatalities’. ‘This trend has continued into 2021 with 17 fatal incidents recorded (in the region) in the first two months of the year. We can and must do better,’ he announced at the organisation’s annual safety summit. 

He points out that 52 municipal solid waste industry workers were killed in the United States and Canada last year, almost 70% during collection. SWANA points out that New York witnessed the most fatal incidents (15), followed by California (12), Texas (11), Pennsylvania (9) and Florida (8). The organisation notes that New York and California have claimed a spot in the ‘top five’ three years running. 

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