Croydon Council has been fined £100,000, plus legal costs, and the borough’s rubbish contractors, Veolia penalised with a £250,000 fine, plus costs, after a worker was crushed by a reversing dust cart, suffering significant injuries.
According to a report from the Health and Safety Executive published earlier this week, Southwark Crown Court heard how, on May 9 2016, a workshop cleaner, employed by the council and working within Veolia’s vehicle repair depot, was struck by a reversing 17½-ton dust cart.
The worker suffered multiple fractures to his right fibula, femur, knee, ankle, wrist and hand. He also suffered what is described as “a degloving injury” to his right hand requiring a skin graft.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the workshop cleaner was employed as a “supported employee” due to his learning difficulties with a recognised need for heightened supervision.
Due to his work, he was often required to work in parts of the site, such as the workshop, where large vehicles with low rear visibility for drivers were manoeuvring. He was known to have a history of standing in the path of moving vehicles, an issue known to both duty holders which they failed to address adequately.
It was later found that the council had relied upon a historical “agreement” from 2003 whereby their previous waste contractor had agreed to supervise the workshop cleaner.
The court heard that direct management or supervision of the individual had diminished over time and the worker was left with no active management. It was found that Croydon failed due to their presumption that Veolia were managing the injured party and that they should have communicated with Veolia to keep their employee safe.
According to the HSE, “Veolia did not recognise this ‘agreement’ nor did they require the services of the workshop cleaner but, nevertheless, the worker continued to operate within their workshop and had done since their contract began.”
It was found in court that Veolia failed to take reasonably practicable precautions to ensure the injured party was safe whilst working within their workshop due to a lack of implementation of adequate controls for workplace transport such as use of a banksman.
Lawyers acting for the council pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The council was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,842.83.
Veolia pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,359.83.
“This serious workplace transport incident could have been avoided if both duty holders had taken the appropriate safety precautions when planning this activity,” Megan Carr, of the HSE, said. “Failing to identify the risks led to this man suffering serious life changing injuries.”
A council spokesperson said, “We are extremely sorry that we let our employee and his family down.
“Since this accident we have continued to support him, and we have also reviewed and improved all relevant health and safety practices so this never happens again.”
Croydon has outsourced its bin collections and road-sweeping service to Veolia since 2003. From next month, Croydon is to be locked in to another six-year contract with Veolia, part of a cost-cutting deal arranged by the Labour-controlled council through the South London Waste Partnership, with Sutton, Kingston and Merton. The SLWP is also delivering to south London the incinerator at Beddington Lane, operated by Viridor on a 25-year, £1billion contract.
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