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February 4, 2011

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Biffa Waste Services fined £60k in relation to landfill death

A waste-management company has pleaded guilty to having an unsafe system of work after an employee was found dead at a landfill site in Northern Ireland.
The body of 22-year-old David Layland was found at Biffa Waste Services Ltd’s landfill site in Mallusk on 22 August 2008. Mr Layland worked as a site operative at the dump and had gone missing 30 hours earlier while operating a bulldozer.
Belfast Crown Court heard that Mr Layland was last seen talking to one of his colleagues before both went on a break. When his colleague returned he was unable to find Mr Layland and a search party was assembled. He was eventually discovered underneath a deep pile of compacted waste, which was located 70 metres away from where he had last been seen.
It has been reported in the national press that Mr Layland’s body was found crushed, dismembered and buried under hundreds of tons of waste. When contacted by SHP the HSENI was unable to reveal the cause of death, and said it’s investigation was unable to establish how the incident had happened. It did however reveal a number of unsafe practices that had been allowed to go on around the time of the last sighting of Mr Layland, including unsafe arrangements for the separation of pedestrians and vehicles at the site.
HSENI inspector Kevin Campbell said: “Proper arrangements must always be in place where large vehicles operate in the vicinity of pedestrians. Where vehicles and pedestrians share a traffic route or work area, there must be strictly controlled arrangements to ensure adequate separation at all times. This applies to all workplaces and is vital in circumstances where large vehicles operate.”
Biffa Waste Services Ltd appeared in court on 2 February and pleaded guilty to breaching Article 4 of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978. It was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs.

After the hearing, A Biffa spokesman said: “The health and safety of employees and those affected by the company’s operations is of paramount importance to Biffa Waste Services Limited. All of the company’s facilities operate in accordance with strict and extensive health and safety procedures and all staff receive thorough training, appropriate to their roles. 

“Mr Layland was a valued employee at the Cottonmount site who was held in the highest regard by his colleagues and at management level. The company reiterates its sincere condolences to Mr Layland’s widow, family and friends.”
In April 2010, SHP reported that the firm had been fined £280,000 after a member of the public was crushed to death at a landfill site in Newbury. The company was also fined £190,000 in June 2009, following a similar incident at its rubbish dump in Hampshire where a self-employed worker died after being run-over by a shovel loader.

The GMB union released a statement expressing its outrage at the sentence, which it calls a “mere slap on the wrists”. GMB organiser in Northern Ireland, Michael Mulholland, said: “This is the fifth death at waste dumps run by BIFFA Waste Services in the last decade. As a large company with adequate resources it is a disgrace that BIFFA do not invest more in decent health and safety systems, and an even greater outrage that a life can be deemed worth so little.

“The total fine and costs in Mr Layland’s case is exactly a third of the penalty imposed in England. It appears that the cost of a life in England is significantly dearer than it is here in Northern Ireland. This cannot be justified. GMB is campaigning for directors to end up in jail to stop preventable deaths and the prospect of jail would have an impact here. It is high time that Northern Ireland led the way on this.”

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