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Refuse worker deaths increase by 50%

06 August 2018

DEATHS AMONG refuse workers have shot up 50% according to the latest HSE figures – at the same time staff face 1,000 instances of dangerous driving every single day, GMB union has revealed.

At least 12 people died in the waste sector last year - up from eight the year before.¹

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. 

Workers in the sector face many hazards but one of the most worrying is that a massive 360,000 incidents of dangerous or reckless driving that are reported by refuse workers every year.²

Meanwhile, workers report a massive 1,000 incidents of dangerous or reckless driving every day - a total of 360,000 every year.²

Video footage released by Biffa shows refuse workers diving for cover as reckless drivers mounts pavements, curbs and grass verges to get round bin lorries making rubbish collections.³

The average earnings of the UK’s refuse workers is just over £19,000 a year  - and has plummeted 7.4% in real terms since 2011.4

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.

“In this sweltering heat, it doesn’t get any easier. It’s an incredibly tough job, but despite the graft they put in, refuse workers have seen their pay plummet in real terms since 2011.

“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.”


[1] http://www.hse.gov.uk/Statistics/pdf/fatalinjuries.pdf

[2] https://www.biffa.co.uk/news/drops-driving-recklessly-pavements/

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=99&v=bQ4c4OqJj6c


Median (full-time) earnings in current prices

Converted into constant (2017) prices







Change (£)



Change (%)



Sources: ONS, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2017; HMT GDP deflator.