VEHICLES - 29.04.2021

£1 million fine for vehicle contact fatality

After a young waste operative was killed on his recycling collection, the employer was prosecuted and fined more than £1m. What happened, and how can you minimise the risks of accidents when working close to vehicles is unavoidable?

The accident

The 22-year-old worker was killed was part of a four-person crew on a recycling collection round in Daventry. During the morning of 8 April 2016, he tripped and was crushed under the wheels of the bin lorry as it reversed, suffering fatal head injuries. An investigation by the HSE found that Enterprise Managed Services Ltd (EMS) had not carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the collection route. Specifically, this should have looked at ways to minimise the need for reversing vehicles which is a known high risk activity. Inspectors also found that there was insufficient supervision. EMS pleaded guilty to breaching its duty under s.3(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that those affected by its operations are not exposed to health or safety risks. It was fined £1.02 million and ordered to pay costs of over £60,470, plus a victim surcharge.

Wasted lives

Nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work are linked to reversing, and any activities requiring pedestrians to be in the vicinity are particularly risky. This is one reason why you should be careful about deploying banksmen to assist with HGV manoeuvres. Although this can be a useful risk management control, it is not a first resort, and when implemented must be done with adequate training and personal protective equipment.

Note. Although you may not be directly involved in the collection of refuse, if you have staff on the ground working around vehicles, there are lessons to be taken from advice aimed at this sector.

Advice

Risk assessments should consider the hazards on regular routes and you should adjust the route and/or schedule it to reduce the risk, e.g. undertake jobs at less busy times, change the route to avoid reversing. Consider single-sided street collection or delivery so that there is no need to cross the street. Ensure good visibility for the driver, e.g. with additional mirrors and rear-facing CCTV, possibly supplemented with detectors and alarms.

Relying on safe behaviour

Refuse collection and recycling sorting are just two examples of activities which rely on workers following your safe systems of work. This might require that they stand a particular distance away or return to the cab during reversing, not standing within certain zones close to the vehicle, wearing hi-visibility clothing, not crossing the street, etc.

Tip. Do what you can within reason to eliminate or reduce the risk without relying on correct behaviour. It’s the least effective risk control measure due to the prevalence of human error and non-compliance.

Tip. If you must rely on safe systems of work you’ll need to supervise and monitor. For example, this might involve announced periods of observation by management, unannounced spot checks and audits and reviewing CCTV footage. There should also be strict supervision of new starters to ensure that training has bedded in.

Tip. Treat any breaking of the rules seriously, invoking retraining and your disciplinary policy as necessary.

The worker was crushed under the wheels of the reversing vehicle after tripping over. You should redesign tasks so as to minimise the reversing of HGVs. Also consider driver aids to improve visibility around the vehicle. Introduce a robust programme of monitoring to check that staff are applying your safety procedures.

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