Homeless Putting Lives At Risk By Sleeping In Bins, Research Finds

10-02-14(1)picNew research shows that people sleeping rough do seek shelter in waste and recycling bins, particularly in cold or wet weather, which is putting their lives at risk and has resulted in a number of fatalities.

Biffa, partnered with CIWM has published a report today (10 Feb), which, for the first time, gives a clearer idea of how many people are found sleeping in waste containers each year

Sleeping in refuse containers puts themselves at risk of injury and death, with a worrying 16 percent of people found sleeping in bins only discovered after they were tipped out.

When CIWM partnered with waste and recycling company Biffa and the rough sleeping service StreetLink to carry out this piece of research, it was in response to a number of industry wide near misses and fatalities.

The report looks at the scale of the problem and sets out industry recommendations for managing this issue.

David Beadle, President of CIWM – “Working with homeless charities is vital for developing the right guidance, and to helping those who are unfortunate enough to be sleeping rough to make choices that do not pose an added risk to their wellbeing”

“People who sleep rough have difficult choices to make, and sheltering in a bin can seem like a safe, dry place to spend the night. However, when the bin is emptied, all too often people are still inside and their lives become immediately at risk,” said Matt Harrison, Director of StreetLink

Some 176 waste management organisations responded to the questionnaire, which sought to establish, for the first time, the issues, risks and prevention of people sleeping in waste containers.

The study has shown that people are most likely, though not exclusively, to be found sleeping in unlocked bins stored at the rear or side of buildings and largely in urban areas.

People sleeping rough seek shelter in bins through the night and in particular in cold or wet weather.

Over the last 12 months, nearly a fifth of waste industry professionals who responded to the questionnaire reported finding people sheltering in bins.

The most typical scenario for a recorded incident of finding someone sheltering in a bin was found to be:

  • A homeless person (58%)
  • In an urban area (88%)
  • At dawn, dusk or night (90%)
  • In wet or cold weather conditions (73%)
  • In a 1100 litre bin (65%) with no lock (50%)
  • At the rear or side of the premises (73%)

Interestingly, in nearly 40 percent of cases, the bin had a working lock fitted. A third of people were discovered immediately, with 38 percent being discovered during the lifting operation and 16 percnt when they were tipped out.

One of the most significant finding of the study was that two thirds of organisations did not have a formal policy for checking bins prior to tipping, which is one of the most reliable ways to make sure people’s lives are not endangered.

Health and safety policies of waste management organisations do in some cases encourage staff to check bins for rough sleepers. However, this is not yet widespread enough to provide the consistent protection that these vulnerable people need.

This research will enable homeless charities to better communicate with rough sleepers about the dangers of sheltering in bins, whilst helping raise awareness of the issue amongst waste management crews and the public at large.

Ian Wakelin, CEO of Biffa commented: “Only through understanding the experiences of the waste collection sector can we ensure that we are raising awareness in the most appropriate ways, and training our staff to be vigilant in their checks. Protecting the lives of rough sleepers is absolutely vital and this study will bring us one step closer to that goal.”

David Beadle, President of CIWM said: “The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management is committed to raising awareness of this issue and we are delighted to be a research partner in this report. Working with homeless charities is vital for developing the right guidance, and to helping those who are unfortunate enough to be sleeping rough to make choices that do not pose an added risk to their wellbeing.”

HSE guidance on this issue is available and by ensuring best practice is followed when checking bins prior to tipping, and training waste collection crews to know what advice to give to their customers on the need to lock bins, it is hoped that lives can be saved.

For the report CLICK HERE

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