Graphic image of the GMB Union's black and orange logo

GMB highlights refuse worker dangers as fatalities increase

Published:  07 September, 2018

Deaths among refuse workers have shot up 50%, says the GMB Union, after at least 12 people died in the waste sector in 2017 – an increase from eight the year before.

This does not include asbestos related illness, suicide, or people killed because of a workplace activity so the figure is likely to be much higher.

And the GMB also estimates that refuse workers face 1,000 instances of dangerous driving every single day with 360,000 incidents of dangerous or reckless driving reported by refuse workers every year.

Video footage released by Biffa shows refuse workers diving for cover as reckless drivers mount pavements, curbs and grass verges to get round bin lorries making rubbish collections.

Yet, despite the hazardous work, dedicated refuse workers have seen their pay plummet in real terms since 2011, says GMB. The average earnings of a refuse worker in the UK is just over £19,000 a year – down 7.4% in real terms since 2011, it says.

Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said: ‘We all rely on refuse collections to keep our cities, towns and villages clean and safe. But refuse workers are literally risking their lives coming into work each day – it’s one of the most dangerous jobs you can do.’

He added: ‘Our refuse workers desperately need a pay rise but alongside that they need the police, courts and general public to treat them with the respect they deserve.

“The law of the land should come down hard on anyone putting our members’ lives at risk or threatening their safety. They’re just trying to do a job and look after the rest of us.’

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