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Tackling rough sleeper bin deaths

Katie Coyne22/11/2018 - 13:32

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Rough sleepers at risk
Rough sleepers at risk

An awareness campaign of the danger to life for rough sleepers sheltering in large refuse bins has been launched by Southwark Council, in south London.

Between 2009 and 2015 there have been 11 deaths in the UK caused by homeless people being inadvertently tipped into waste collection compacters. The waste industry has said that these incidents are on the rise.

The Combined Homeless and Information Network (CHAIN) found 3,103 people sleeping rough in the capital between July and September this year, which is a record number and is also increasing.

As winter approaches Southwark has launched an awareness campaign with local businesses to provide advice, leaflets, posters, and bin stickers. Southwark Officers have been visiting at risk businesses to raise awareness and promote resources, hopefully saving lives.

Roy Pickard, principal EHO, said: ‘There have been no deaths reported in Southwark to-date, but we are keen that this doesn’t happen to any of our street population.’

Waste contractor Biffa reported 31 cases of rough sleepers in bins in 2013/14 which rose to 93 just one year later. In 2015/16 it reached 175. 

Last winter Veolia, Southwark’s domestic waste contractor, reported 32 cases of people being found in bins across the UK. The previous year it had been 26 cases.

The waste industry has run campaigns to raise awareness such as B&M Waste Services ‘Refuse not Refuge’ campaign. The HSE has also been working with the waste sector offering guidance and advice on this issue.

This year, for example, HSE has asked H&S regulators to work with businesses that use large commercial waste bins such as retail and licensed premises. HSE has also asked that local authorities make businesses aware of their duties to avert injury and death as a result of this issue.

Businesses most attractive to rough sleepers, posing the highest risks:

  • Have bins with a capacity of 660 litres or greater
  • Are located in areas where rough sleeping is known
  • Are in areas where there have been previous instances of people being found in waste storage areas and bins
  • Store dry, ‘comfortable’ wastes attractive to those seeking shelter such as paper, card, carpet and textiles
  • Have storages in areas in quiet locations with low footfall
  • Have unsecured bin stores or bins without locks

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