• Robert Spicer

Health and safety horrors continued: recycling industry


Recycling site death from exploding gas cylinder

In June 2009 Tony Johnson was working at Walter Heselwood Ltd, a scrap metal recycling company’s site in Sheffield. A pressurised gas cylinder was put through a shearing machine. It exploded and a large section struck Mr Johnson on the head. He suffered fatal injuries. The company had no effective health and safety management system in place. It had failed to adequately assess the risks involved with processing different types of scrap material. It had also failed to put in place a range of measures to reduce risks.

Serious ash burns

In December 2009 an agency worker was cleaning ash from a filtration hopper at Veolia Environmental Services’ site in Deptford. He prodded the ash with a rod in an attempt to clear a blockage. The ash fell onto him and he suffered 17 per cent burns to his body. He was hospitalised for a month. The worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, was from Eastern Europe. He spoke little English and had not been properly instructed on working practices at the site. Veolia had not followed its own policies and procedures for the management of dangerous tasks. This put a vulnerable worker at risk by failing to provide him with adequate information or supervision.


Collapse of waste material: worker asphyxiated

In August 2014 Neville Watson, an employee of New Earth Solutions Group Ltd, a waste and recycling company, was driving a loading shovel near a pile of waste material which was eight metres high. He had connected a shredder to the vehicle. The pile collapsed on him and he died from asphyxiation. The company had failed to undertake and prepare risk assessments or safe systems of work for the creation and management of stockpiles of waste. It had also failed to provide adequate training.

Excavator fall death

In July 2012 Lindsay Campbell was working in the bucket of an excavator South Coast Skips Ltd, a waste management company’s site in Arundel. He was running an electric cable to power a waste screening machine. The bucket was lifted nine metres from the ground when the hydraulic pressure dropped, the bucket tipped forward and Campbell fell nine metres to the concrete floor. He suffered fatal injuries. An HSE inspector commented after the case that nobody should ever be lifted in the bucket of an excavator. Neither the bucket nor the excavator have the necessary safety devices nor fail safe devices which would prevent a person falling. The company did not have in place the training and supervision and especially the health and safety culture that ensures that nobody would consider undertaking such an obviously unsafe act such as this.

Dumper truck death

Ben Sewell, an employee of Dittisham Recycling Centre Ltd, was working at its site in Dittisham, South Devon. He was driving a dumper truck to move oversized material. He drove the truck along a dirt track down a steeply sided valley. He was not wearing a seat belt. He was found lying at the side of the track a few metres from the truck. He had suffered fatal injuries. The HSE discovered a series of safety failings with vehicles at the site. Tipping operations were unsafe and some of the roadways were inadequately protected. The deceased had not been adequately trained. An HSE inspector commented that dumper trucks are inherently unstable and dangerous machines to operate. The company had not enforced the necessary rules to make sure that they were driven safely, including the full and proper use of seat lap belts.

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