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Firm fined at least £3 million after deaths of two workers

A business has been fined at least £3 million following the deaths of two workers - one of them originally from Sutton Coldfield.


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said Valencia Waste Management Limited has received a £3m fine following the death of the workers in separate incidents.

Michael Atkin and Mart Wheatley died following incidents in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

The HSE investigated both incidents and subsequently prosecuted Valencia Waste Management Limited, formally known as Viridor Waste Management Limited.

In the 2020 incident, Mark Wheatley - from Sutton Coldfield, but living in Teignbridge, Devon - died following an incident on January 17 at Dartmoor National Park Conservation Works depot in Bovey Tracey, Devon.

The 31-year-old was an agency worker on his second week.

Mr Wheatley had been using a lorry to lift two skips at the same time, employing a method called 'hot-swapping'.

However, the skips were not compatible, as they were different dimensions, and fell at an angle. He then got onto the lorry bed to rectify the situation but the skips overbalanced and fatally struck him.

An HSE investigation into this incident found the company had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment into skip operations, meaning that safe systems of work and appropriate training were not implemented.

It was also found that skips were not maintained in an efficient state and sizes were not displayed on the skips.

Michael Atkin, from Wetherby, lost his life while collecting a load of waste paper bales at Valencia Waste Management Limited’s Grendon Road site in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, on October 10, 2019.

The 63-year-old HGV driver was employed by RT Keedwell and had been working at the site with a Valencia Waste Management employee, who was using a forklift truck to load Mr Atkin’s lorry with rows of bales.

With three rows of bales already loaded on Mr Atkin’s lorry, the Valencia employee then attempted to load a fourth row. However, while loading the fourth row, some bales in the third row were dislodged and fell off the lorry, fatally crushing Michael.

An HSE investigation found it was not custom and practice at the Earls Barton site for bales to be loaded onto lorries by forklift truck operators at the same time the lorry driver was strapping bales which had previously been loaded onto the lorry flatbed.

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."

Following the 2019 incident, Valencia Waste Management Limited, of London Road, Stretton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The group was also found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for the 2020 incident.

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