Reckless driving on the spot

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Back in 2016, Biffa, a leading national recycling and waste management provider, launched a campaign to tackle the risk of workers being injured while collecting waste by motorists driving on pavements.

Analysing the campaign two years later, serious issues affecting the industry are more evident than ever.

 There are plenty of health and safety risks facing businesses in the waste management sector – many of which need to be managed on a daily basis to keep employees safe. However, one risk that staff should not have to handle while working on collection rounds is impatient drivers mounting pavements at speed to get around waste collection vehicles.

Last year, it was estimated that incidents of people driving dangerously on pavements were happening around 30,000 times a month. This not only puts waste workers across the UK at risk, but also pedestrians – including children, who assume the pavement to be a safe place. The lack of patience shown by some drivers towards waste collection workers is not only unsafe, it can be life-threatening, and result in fatal accidents for both the driver, worker, or member of the public.

Biffa handles 10 per cent of household waste collections in the UK. The staff shockingly report around 3,000 incidents of reckless driving per month. Reports also show that only 6 per cent of potentially fatal incidents were even reported to the police, never mind actual prosecutions following.

These estimated figures only relate to the UK’s waste management workers and are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg – as there are a range of workers in other sectors facing the same risk, such as road workers.

Staff at Biffa report around 3,000 incidents of reckless driving each month

Other reports also indicate the significant impact of driving dangerously on pavements, including data from the Department for Transport, which shows that each year, 10 per cent of all pedestrian vehicle collisions take place on the pavement (an average 2,400 a year since 2011).

Tackling the issue head on, Biffa launched the Driving Recklessly On Pavement’ (DRoPs) campaign; a road safety initiative aimed at raising awareness of dangerous driving and the risk it poses to the general public and workers in the waste industry.

Raising awareness of a deadly issue

A combination of tactics such as an eye-opening awareness video and a supporting campaign, working with local councils and the police, installing 360-degree cameras on trucks to capture footage of reckless drivers and providing hi-vis clothing bearing safety messages for its workers to wear on rounds have been part of the campaign.

The partnership with Staffordshire Police was key to launching the pilot campaign, resulting in the development of a new prosecution system to charge reckless drivers. Since October 2016 one in three of 300 incidents of illegal driving reported by Biffa staff in that region has led to prosecutions.

The pilot scheme quickly led to the campaign being implemented across other regions, with local councils and police joining forces to help tackle this very serious issue.

Biffa is now also working in partnership with local authority groups such as The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) and HTMA (Highways Traffic Management Association) with the aim of making sure that workers across the nation, in all industries, can safely operate without facing risks resulting from the actions of dangerous and impatient drivers.

Reducing the risk at the source

With the waste management sector being just one of many industries that regularly deal with the issue of drivers mounting pavements, education and awareness of the issue is a vital tool to help combat this risk.

No health and safety campaign can effectively set about reducing a serious risk without targeting that risk at its root. Training employees on how to deal with the problems they face daily is key, as it is also looking at what procedures and signposts it can put in place to help prevent these dangerous and potentially fatal incidents from occurring in the first place.

This has led to an awareness advert being placed inside a New Drivers Guide that is issued to newly qualified drivers across the UK. This advert included what is considered to be the next phase of this project in a Slow Down to Get Around campaign that is currently being used in the United States. This is aimed at getting drivers to slow down when passing not just refuse vehicles but road workers and service vehicles in general.

A huge success

During the past two years incidents have been reduced by as much as half in areas where driver awareness campaigns have been focused and 19 police forces have now either implemented the same prosecution system or are looking to do so.

Dave West is regional health and safety coach at Biffa   



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