Veolia and Croydon Council have tried to suppress information being reported about the death of one of the contractors’ workers at the end of July when, while on a bin round in Thornton Heath in some of the hottest temperatures this country has ever experienced, the man collapsed on the street and died.
Inside Croydon began investigating the case after being alerted to the incident by one of our loyal readers.
The worker has not yet been named, and the coroner’s report into the cause of death is still awaited.
The council and their rubbish contractors, though, have done their best to try to stifle any adverse publicity or any questions about the circumstances which led to the man’s death.
Some anecdotal reports, which have not been confirmed, suggest that the 43-year-old worker had reported feeling unwell while doing the rubbish round with the Veolia truck. According to reliable sources at Croydon Town Hall, the man was not staff with Veolia, but an agency worker brought in as temporary cover. It was just his second day working with Veolia.
They were working on a round of recycling collections. A typical shift can often require the workers to walk up to 30 streets, pulling bins on the pavement and then sometimes even lifting them on to the bin truck for emptying.
It is strenuous work at the best of times, and in the 35-degree-plus temperatures of the recent heatwave, it appears to have taken a tragic toll.
After being contacted, Veolia provided a statement. “We can confirm that a member of our collection team was taken ill at around 1.30pm in Thornton Heath, Croydon, on Thursday 25 July.
“An ambulance was called immediately and he was taken to St George’s Hospital for treatment where he died later that evening. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very difficult time.”
That statement appears nowhere on Veolia’s websites, nor on Croydon Council’s.
Nor has the council, either through £220,000 chief exec Jo Negrini, nor Labour leader Tony Newman, done anything as humane as issue a public message of condolences to the dead worker’s family, friends or work colleagues.
When approached about the incident today, a Veolia spokeswoman admitted, “We have not put the statement on the website. We only send it out if anyone asks for it.”
Inside Croydon has established that the majority of councillors have not been informed about the death of one of the workers delivering the council’s services.
“I should be surprised that we’ve been told nothing,” one Labour councillor told Inside Croydon. “But I am not. That’s the way this place operates these days. This is clearly a serious incident, with important implications for the delivery of our rubbish collection service, and yet more than a week later and we have been told nothing about it.”
Another, on the condition of strict anonymity, said, “I can’t understand how Croydon Council can be so callous.
“A fairly young man dies while emptying bins for residents in Thornton Heath and nobody from the council wants to publicly offer their condolences to his family and friends. This is truly shocking.”
The tragedy could yet have implications for the manner in which Veolia provides its services for Croydon, through the South London Waste Partnership. Since the cost-cutting contract for rubbish collection with Veolia was revised and rolled out across four boroughs, it has been evident that the company has been at full stretch, or over-stretched, in delivering its services.
If, now, people are dying on shift because their working conditions are so demanding that they are unable to take a break when feeling unwell, then there may be urgent demand for the terms of the contract to be carefully re-examined.
Veolia’s work safety record could also come under closer scrutiny as a consequence of this incident, which is at least the third involving their bin lorries in three years.
In 2016, the Health and Safety Executive handed down £370,000 in fines and costs to Veolia and Croydon when a worker was crushed by a 17½-ton dust cart which was reversing in their repair depot.
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