Biffa's campaign to make pavements safe: one year on

Written by: Dave West | Published:
Biffa regional safety and health coach Dave West

It's a year since Biffa launched a campaign to tackle the risks caused by drivers mounting pavements to get around bin lorries. Biffa regional safety and health coach Dave West looks at the impact it has had and discusses future plans.

People working in the waste management sector face an array of health and safety risks. It is the nature of the job they do and therefore crucial that organisations manage these risks to keep them out of harm’s way.

One risk which is not acceptable, however, is encountering other vehicles driving across pavements in a bid to get around waste collection vehicles. It is very worrying how often this has happened. So, at Biffa we’ve been looking at ways we can address it in the past few years.

Last year, it was estimated that incidents like this were happening a startling 30,000 times a month in the UK. Drivers of cars, vans and other vehicles were willing to risk the lives of employees just to save a few seconds. According to the Department for Transport, 10% of all pedestrian-vehicle collisions happen on the pavement- an average 2,400 a year since 2011.

And it wasn’t just waste management workers facing the risks. There were some shocking incidents involving vehicles and other pedestrians – including children.

DROPs

At Biffa, we called time on this last autumn, launching a new campaign called DROPs (Driving Recklessly on Pavements).

It has seen us use a combination of tactics, including working with the police, staff training, re-routing of vehicles, clearer hi-vis marking and resident-awareness marketing. Many of our trucks have 360-degree cameras which capture every close shave and help with evidence for the police.

Biffa has not only highlighted a problem that had not been taken seriously enough, but we are now in a position where actions in targeted areas have seen a reduction in incidents by as much as half.

An example is the work we have done with Staffordshire Police to introduce a new prosecution system to target reckless driving. Since this was introduced, one in three of the 300 incidents of illegal driving reported by Biffa staff alone led to prosecution. Meanwhile, incident reporting in the same region has halved, from an average of 12 per week to five or six per week.

We have worked with other police forces on the campaign, and have also focused attention on specific groups of drivers. These vary from those who commute privately to those who drive for work. In fact, co-operation has been the key to this campaign’s success: we are currently working with some large fleet operators who are enthusiastic about sharing this with their drivers as part of an awareness campaign.

By raising awareness, we hope that drivers will realise the risks they pose by mounting pavements. These risks far outweigh any advantage they may gain. As we look back over the past year, the campaign has been a huge success. It has far exceeded the expectations of myself and my colleagues.

Moving forward

But, while we are delighted with the success of the campaign, we recognise that incidents do still happen. Therefore we still need to do more and are regularly looking at new initiatives as part of the campaign.

Biffa has already started sharing the DROPs initiative across the waste management area and in other sectors because we felt this was too life-critical to keep to ourselves. We have negotiated trials for reporting with the police for competitors and local authorities alike.

In fact, we believe the figure of 30,000 incidents is just the tip of the iceberg as workers in other sectors face the same risk. Take the example of road workers, where there have been issues with drivers cutting through roadworks.

While people in the waste management sector are aware of the risks, others perceive the pavement to be a safe place to walk. We are working with police and criminal justice teams from a number of forces to raise awareness around this and to ensure the new prosecution system introduced in Staffordshire is rolled out elsewhere.

We want to make public highways and pavements safe to use for waste management workers and other users. By working together with other organisations, our campaign can continue to be a success.


If you would like to hear more about the DROPs campaign, Dave West and his fellow safety and health coach Steve Fargeon will be presenting it at IOSH 2017, the annual international conference of the global professional safety and health body. Visit www.ioshconference.com for more information.


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