Skip to main content

Home  »  UK Business News   »   Waste management firm fined £3 million after two worker deaths

Waste management firm fined £3 million after two worker deaths

Mark Wheatley and his partner Keeley Martin

A national waste management company has been hit with a £3 million fine following and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the death of two workers.

Michael Atkin and Mark Wheatley both died in separate incidents involving Valencia Waste Management Limited, previously Viridor Waste Management Limited.

The fine comes after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

READ MORE: Kent Waste Company Fined £150,000 For Health And Safety Breaches

Mr Atkin, who was 63 and lived in Wetherby in Yorkshire, died in an incident in 2019.

He was crushed by falling wastepaper bales at Valencia Waste Management Limited's site in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire.

Three loads of bales had been put on the lorry, but became dislodged when the fourth load was being added.

The investigation found it appeared he had been securing the other bales to the lorry as they fell on him.

Each one weighed at least 820kg.

Janet Atkin, Michael’s partner, said: “Since the loss of Michael, it has left an enormous hole in my life, four years later I’m still traumatised and I don’t sleep well.”

The HSE investigation found it was not custom and practice at the 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.

Mark Wheatley died after being crushed by a skip

Mark Wheatley's death happened in January 2020 after an incident involving a skip.

He was working at the Dartmoor National Park Conservation Works depot in Bovey Tracey, Devon.

The 31-year-old, who was from Sutton Coldfield but lived in Teignbridge, Devon, was an agency worker on his second week.

He was using a lorry to lift two skips at the same time - a method called "hot swapping."

However, the skips were not compatible, as they were of different dimensions.

This meant they fell at an angle onto the back of Mr Wheatley's lorry.

He got onto the lorry bed to try to fix the problem, but the skips overbalanced and fatally struck him.

READ MORE: Pipeline Transportation Company Fined £2.3 Million For Safety Breaches

John and Sue Wheatley, Mark’s parents, arrived at the scene of the incident following a phone call from their son asking for help.

Sue said in a statement presented to the court: “Every single night as soon as I close my eyes, I see Mark lying crushed underneath the skip dead or dying.

"When we arrived at the scene we were held back by the police and so I couldn’t get close to him and couldn’t tell if he was dead or alive.

“That image is what I see every single night when I close my eyes and every single morning before I open my eyes.

"I shouted out to him that we were there. I will never know if he heard that or not.”

"Mark was my soulmate"

Keeley Martin, Mark’s partner, said in her victim personal statement: “To say Mark was my soulmate really is an understatement, he really was the kindest most caring man anyone could have the pleasure of meeting, he made a positive impact on everyone he met.

"The day he was taken he took a part of me with him, I nor anyone who knew him will ever be the same again.”

Need Career Advice? Get employment skills advice at all levels of your career

Another HSE investigation found Valencia Waste Management Limited had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment into skip operations.

This meant safe systems of work and appropriate training were not implemented, and skips were not maintained in an efficient state.

Sizes were also not displayed on the skips themselves.

Failings in safety protocol

The investigations revealed lapses in safety protocols and processes within the company.

The company was fined £1 million for the 2019 incident, and another £2 million after the 2020 incident.

Both fines were imposed at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court on 6 September 2023.

The company was also mandated to cover combined costs amounting to £21,054.

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.”

Follow us on YouTube, Twitter,LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Most Read News