Waste firm fined £3m after two workers killed in ‘avoidable incidents’

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Valencia Waste Management Limited, formerly known as Viridor Waste Management Limited, has been fined £3 million after two workers died in separate incidents.

Michael Atkin lost his life while collecting a load of wastepaper bales at Valencia’s Grendon Road site in Northamptonshire, on 10 October 2019.

The 63-year-old HGV driver employed by RT Keedwell, had been working at the site with a colleague, who was using a forklift truck to load Michael’s lorry with rows of bales.

While loading the fourth row, some bales in the third row were dislodged and fell off the lorry, fatally crushing Michael. Each bale weighed at least 820kg.

Mark Wheatley died at the Dartmoor National Park Conservation Works depot in Bovey Tracey, Devon, in an incident which ocurred on 17 January 2020. The 31-year-old, who lived in Devon, was an agency worker on his second week.

Mark Wheatley (right) and his partner Keeley Martin. Photograph: HSE

Mark had been using a lorry to lift two skips at the same time, deploying a method called ‘hot swapping’.

However, the skips were not compatible, as they were of different dimensions, and fell at an angle onto the back of Mark’s lorry. He got onto the lorry bed to rectify the problem, but the skips overbalanced and fatally struck him.

Valencia Waste Management Limited, of London Road, Warwickshire was fined for both incidents at Loughborough Magistrates Court on 6 September 2023.

For the 10 October 2019 incident, the company was fined £1 million for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. For the 17 January 2020 incident, the company was fined £2 million for breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Alan Hughes, senior enforcement lawyer at HSE, said: “These were two men at different stages of their lives, but the grief and pain across both families is devastating.

“Both deaths were avoidable. More needs to be done to make the use of vehicles on waste and recycling sites safer. We have a wealth of advice and guidance freely available.”