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The managing director of a skip hire and waste management firm, whose employee suffered life-changing injuries in the company yard, has received a six-month suspended prison sentence, with the company itself fined £150,000. 
Folkestone Magistrates’ Court heard that on 14 December 2018, an employee of Easy Load Ltd was crossing the firm’s yard on Old Rochester Way in Dartford when he was hit by a 21-tonne loading shovel, which was reversing around a blind bend in the yard. The employee suffered life-changing injuries, from which he is still recovering, and he is unable to return to work. 
 
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Easy Load and its managing director, Thomas J Lee, had failed to take reasonable steps to ensure there was adequate pedestrian segregation in the waste processing yard so that both pedestrians and vehicles could circulate in a safe manner. 
 
To compound matters, the directors of Easy Load were already aware of the risks to pedestrians due to previous incidents occurring in the yard. However, they had failed to put in place safety measures and continued to ignore the advice of their health and safety consultant and the HSE, leaving workers exposed to potential risk. 
 
Easy Load Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 4(1) by virtue of Regulation 17(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations and was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7454.20. Easy Load managing director Lee pleaded guilty to breaching section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £549.40 in costs. 
 
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Susie Beckett said: 'Workplace transport activities are one of the biggest risks in the waste and recycling industry. This incident, and the resulting life-changing injuries suffered, were avoidable and occurred as a result of a fundamental management failing on the part of the company and its directors, who patently failed to address and control clear risks which had been brought to their attention. 
 
'The HSE will not hesitate to hold both companies and individual directors, board members and business owners to account where management failings are found to be at the root of any health and safety offending.' 
 
In 2019/2020, the HSE issued 233 improvement notices and 59 prohibition notices to businesses in waste management. In addition to these 292 enforcement notices, 14 prosecution cases were brought by the HSE or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland that reached a verdict: 11 resulted in a guilty verdict for at least one offence. The resulting fines from these prosecutions totalled around £2.6 million, with an average fine per case of £239,000. 
 
The HSE estimates that 4000 – or 3.6% – of workers in the waste management sector sustain non-fatal injuries each year. This is almost double the rate for workers across all industries and places waste management second highest, between agriculture, forestry and fishing (4.1%) and construction (2.9%). 
 
Despite this, RIDDOR figures for fatal accidents in UK waste management for 2019/20 actually showed some improvement. There were five deaths in the sector during the data collection period 2019/2020, which compares to an annual average of nine fatalities over the previous five years. 
 
Using those five-year averages, waste management fatality rates are around 18 times higher than the average across all industries, and only marginally better than agriculture, forestry and fishing. Over the five-year period, 30% of deaths in waste management were attributed to workers being struck by moving vehicles. 
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