Public and refuse workers in Harlow at risk from poor safety standards, claim union

General / Fri 26th Aug 2022 at 08:33am

REFUSE workers and the public in Harlow are being put at risk by a slew of safety failures at Veolia’s Mead Park depot, claims union UNISON.

Union health and safety reps uncovered a litany of breaches during an inspection on Thursday, including faulty emergency stops on at least two vehicles.

The essential safety feature is supposed to prevent loss of life or limb if a worker is accidentally caught in the tipper or rough-sleepers are discovered in bins.

UNISON reps highlighted three faulty emergency stops after an inspection at the beginning of the month but only one has been fixed.

On one vehicle the bin holder is held together with gaffer tape while on another jagged bumper edges have been tied up with shoe laces, says UNISON.

The rubber on the loading hoppers has also worn down on most vehicles, say the reps, leaving the rubbish liable to spill out.

And on one vehicle Veolia has locked the spill kit — absorbents used to clear up dangerous spills such as petrol spills or other liquid waste — in an outside storage box vulnerable to the elements and screwed shut. Waste crews do not have tools on board to access the kit.

As well as the shoddy fleet, UNISON warns that new starters are not receiving training on the correct type of vehicles, putting them at risk of injury.

In addition, reps report rising levels of stress due to unmanageable workloads.

Many of the faults were reported verbally at the beginning of the month but had still not been fixed this morning (Thursday).

UNISON regional manager Caroline Hennessy said: “Harlow’s refuse staff are expected to go out in all weathers in a rickety, unsafe fleet.

“Veolia is putting its staff and the general public at risk of serious injury through failing to keep its vehicles in safe working order or provide proper training to new starters.

“When the firm was awarded the waste contract it promised the people of Harlow shiny new equipment that the council wouldn’t be able to afford, instead crews are working with third-rate, unsafe gear.

“The council should be asking serious questions about Veolia’s ability to run the service.

“Veolia must urgently improve safety at Mead Park for the sake of workers and residents alike.”

YH has contacted Veoila and invited them to respond.

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8 Comments for Public and refuse workers in Harlow at risk from poor safety standards, claim union:

David Forman
2022-08-26 09:40:04

This demonstrates the benefit of a union recognised for negotiating purposes. Unions can then appoint safety reps and carry out safety inspections to protect their members. Also, Harlow Council, should be demanding Veolia maintain a safe fleet of vehicles. Privatisation has consequences, usually for the workers, but also for the public in rubbish spilling from the wagons. This is not acceptable from a multinational company like Veolia.

2022-08-26 13:07:48

Absolutely right, Dave.

2022-08-26 15:48:48

Get the workers to call the company insurers. They are hot on this sort of stuff and will make sure changes are made with the threat of withdrawing cover if changes are not made. The insurance certificate should be publicly displayed within the company with contact details on it. Normally insurers conduct a health and safety check once a year as part of the cover. Alternatively you can contact the HSE directly, though this is a more drawn out process. If there is an accident and management know about faulty emergency stop buttons, then the manager responsible will be looking at jail time. I have seen it happen in the past.

2022-08-26 15:53:06

I am also a little surprised the union have not done this already, why go to the press first? Maybe they are more interested in politics than their members welfare

2022-08-27 06:35:48

Agree with Theman. I smell a rat and its not the one associated with the rubbish. The unions are trying to gain power as simple as that. The drivers of vehicles seem to think that they are something special but ignore basic rules of the road that are taught when learning for a standard driving licence for cars. Those little yellow lights, they are indicators, use them !

2022-08-27 09:15:54

More interested in politics than welfare? Really? Unions often play a critical role in protecting their members and those who aren't from poor health and safty conditions in the workplace. And if you know your history (the two contributors above obviously don't) it is unions who fought hard to improve working conditions. Shamefully, we now have a government intent on dismantling health amd safety in the name of removing red tape. Go to America to see what life is like for workers in all kinds of work environments with no regard for health amd safety. Just one example. A British company that made huge Web offset printing presses that sold well in USA were instructed by their clients to remove all safety features. A camera crew who went to film at a printing plant were shocked at the number of staff who ended up with life changing injuries that the safety features would have prevented. Missing fingers, hands amd arms were rife. Plenty more examples if you want them.

Pedro smithy
2022-08-27 20:50:15

Veolia’s office staff do not care about there staff at all.. supervisors do not answer the phone and you always end up ringing them for about 10-15mins and get told they are busy so couldn’t answer… if you could see what else they get up to in that office it would shock you.. unison are doing there best to help the drivers and loaders at veolia.. harlow council need to seriously look and the state of the vehicles

2022-09-01 09:13:55

I have had dealings with this Caroline Hennessy. Take what she says with a pinch of salt. To say she is a liar is an understatement.

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