Veolia and Croydon Council fined after worker crushed by RCV
Croydon Borough Council and environmental services provider Veolia have been jointly fined £350,000 after a worker was crushed by a refuse collection vehicle.
The worker, who was employed by the council as a cleaner in a Veolia vehicle repair workshop, was hit by the RCV as it reversed, suffering what Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Megan Carr called “serious life-changing injuries”, including multiple fractures to his right fibula, femur, knee, ankle, wrist and hand. He also required a skin graft on his hand following the incident, which occured on 9 May 2016.
Veolia is responsible for refuse and recycling collection across Croydon, as well as street cleansing, a contract which has been in place since 2003. The injured party had been employed in the workshop since that time, and, as a ‘supported employee’ with learning difficulties, required a higher level of supervision than other workers.
However, the HSE investigation into the incident found that levels of support had waned and he had been left with no active management from either the council or Veolia, despite working in dangerous areas with maneuvering vehicles.
Croydon Council claimed to be under the impression that Veolia was supervising the worker, due to an outdated agreement with a previous waste contractor, which Veolia said it did not recognise. The worker also had a history of standing in the path of moving vehicles, which both the council and Veolia ‘failed to address adequately’.
It was found in court that both parties did not take the necessary steps to ensure the worker’s safety, and neither did they properly take into account his specific requirements of care.
Commenting after the hearing at Southwark Crown Court, Carr said: “This serious workplace transport incident could have been avoided if both duty holders had taken the appropriate safety precautions when planning this activity.” The HSE investigation found there had been a lack of proper communication on the part of the council, as well as a failure by Veolia to implement basic precautions for workplace transport, such as the use of a banksman,
Veolia pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £10,842 in costs, while Croydon Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the same act, receiving a fine of £250,000 and paying costs of £11,359.
Since 2009, an average of 5,000 workers every year have sustained injuries in the UK waste industry, according to HSE figures, with 14 fatal incidents in 2016/17 alone - being struck by a moving vehicle is the most common cause of death for workers in the sector, which has the second highest rate of fatalities across all sectors. Rick Brunt, HSE’s Head of Vulnerable Workers, Agriculture, Waste and Recycling Unit, commented: “The waste and recycling sector continues to have a high rate of workplace injury and ill health and it is a priority area for HSE.
“We will use a combination of our direct regulation of the industry and working in collaboration with other organisations to bring about significant and sustained improvement in this performance.”