Teresa Budworth: Check your waste, it may contain a life

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A few months ago a homeless man from Merseyside was tragically killed after climbing into a commercial waste container.

He’d entered the large wheelie bin for some shelter and to get a few hours sleep. Unfortunately he never woke up as the waste container was removed and emptied into a compressor. A truly horrific incident and one which I’m sorry to have to report here.

However, I believe it’s important I highlight this case as there are simple measures employers can take to avoid this kind of tragedy happening again.

Unfortunately, there are usually between two and five incidents of this type each year. This year, the situation is getting worse, with half a dozen deaths involving people sheltering in waste containers since April.
These bins are often used by businesses. There may be some where you work. They usually have four wheels and have a capacity of about 660 plus litres. As well as being used as a shelter by homeless people, children have been known to play in them and also fall asleep or lose consciousness due to an accident of some kind.

There are two very simple steps that can be taken to avoid these types of incident. The first is to make the bins difficult to access. Can they be kept in a locked compound for example? Or can they simply be kept somewhere out of sight from passers-by?

The second is to have a system of checking waste containers. Lift the lid regularly and check what’s inside. Bang on the side of the bin to warn anyone who may be inside. And most importantly, check with whoever collects your waste that they have checking procedures in place themselves to ensure no one is occupying a bin when it’s removed.

These incidents are rare, but the consequences are usually severe. Please alert others.

You can find more free information about managing the risk of people in commercial waste containers on the Health and Safety Executive website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/waste25.pdf

About Teresa Budworth

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About Teresa Budworth

Teresa Budworth, Chief Executive of the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health

During a 30 year career in health and safety, she has specialised in safety consultancy; working with a number of Boards of Directors on implementing safety governance within large and diverse organisations. Her work on competence, education and training culminated in her appointment as Chief Executive of NEBOSH; the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health, in 2006.

Prior to joining NEBOSH, Teresa combined management of Norwich Union Risk Service’s (now Aviva) Consultancy operation with her post as a non-executive Director and Trustee of NEBOSH and was Senior Examiner for Diploma Part One from its inception in 1997. She is a Visiting Senior Teaching Fellow and member of the Examination Board for post graduate courses in Occupational Health at the University of Warwick’s Medical School. She is a member of RoSPA’s National Occupational Safety and Health Committee and also serves on the judging panel for RoSPA’s annual occupational safety and health awards. She is a member of IOSH Council.

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