Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Bin death warning

January 04 2016
Illustration from the Pavement’s campaign to stop bin deaths. ©Lo Parkin Illustration from the Pavement’s campaign to stop bin deaths. ©Lo Parkin
The consequences can be tragic, as we've noted over the years

A homeless man has survived a bin lorry compactor which he went through twice after being scooped up whilst sleeping rough in a bin in Fremont, California.

The 44-year-old managed to escape the compactor unscathed and climbed through a hole in the roof at the second stop. He was taken to hospital to ensure his wellbeing; he is reportedly suffering from mental health issues, and is the subject of outstanding warrants.

The situation is also relatively common in the UK. Just last summer, a homeless man was caught in a compactor in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. He was rescued unharmed when employees heard the screams and raised the alarm, calling in the emergency teams.

In 2013, the Chartered Institute of Waste Management called on bin collection companies to help it tackle the problem of homeless people dying in bins, after a string of fatalities over the previous years.

Despite this, a 2014 study by waste management company Biffa showed that one in five workers surveyed in a study of near-misses had found someone sleeping in bins over the last year, and two-thirds of waste management companies had no formal policy of checking bins before emptying them, and are therefore probably not in line with health and safety legislation.

“We have been warning rough sleepers of the dangers of sleeping in bins for years,” said Val Stevenson, chair of trustees at the Pavement. “The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s guidance document requires assessments of all of the significant risks including the possibility of people gaining entry into bins,” she explained.

HSE produced the document in 2010 after reports showed that a number of the people found dead had been alive prior to being collected by the lorries.

Geoff Cox, HSE’s Head of Waste and Recycling Sector, said at the time: “We fully recognise that seeking shelter in a bin may be preferable to risking it on the street in all weathers, but we want people to understand what the tragic consequences of that can be.”

In May 2015, Biffa announced they would be fitting their lorries with cameras to help avoid future deaths. Tim Standring, the firm’s divisional health, safety, environment and quality coach, said he understood why rough sleepers take to bins, but said it’s a highly dangerous option. “Once you’re in the hopper, the blade comes down and it crushes and breaks the waste. It will take it back into the body [of the vehicle], where it’s compacted again,” he said. "These machines won’t differentiate between cardboard, wood and – unfortunately – people as well."