Littering can be fatal

One of our volunteer coordinators, Phil, has drawn my attention to the tragic case of a worker who was killed while litter-picking a main road in Kent.

This happened on the A228 in Kent, back in 2007. 20-year-old Damian Griffiths was litter-picking the verge of the A228 in the company of a colleague who was driving along behind him in a truck with a caged flat-bed (as is often used for the collection of refuse).

It seems that a large goods lorry, travelling in the same direction, came up from behind and collided with the caged truck which was then shunted into Damian Griffiths. The driver of the caged truck escaped serious injury but poor Damian Griffiths died at the scene.

Veolia (for whom Damian Griffiths and his colleague worked) were fined £225,000 over this incident for failing to ensure that Damian Griffiths’ work activity was safe and properly planned.

I think that there are a number of issues that spring to mind from this sorry tale.

First, I find it sad beyond belief that someone can lose their life as a consequence of people chucking their rubbish out of their vehicle’s window. Because that is where the chain of causality started. Would it change people’s behaviour, I wonder, if they paused to think about the possible consequences before winding down their window and bunging out the remains of their lunch or their drink can or their sweet wrapper or their cigarette packet ?

Second, this episode does remind us that clearing these main roads of litter is a major undertaking. Often, a road has a lane closed for the duration of the litter-pick and many roads are closed altogether while the rubbish is being cleared. This is not only an inconvenience to drivers – it costs a bomb.

Finally – and, apart from not throwing litter from our cars, this is where the rest of us involved in trying to tackle the litter problem need to listen up – we must all be aware (as Phil rightly emphasised to me and to our colleagues) that volunteers should take great care to ensure that they don’t go litter-picking anywhere near busy roads. There is often the temptation to do so, especially if the local council (or the Highways Agency, if they are responsible for the road concerned) aren’t able to clean the verge often enough.

The golden rule must be – don’t even think about picking up litter from any road where either the traffic is fast-moving or there is a lot of it. As Damian Griffiths’ tragic story shows, you simply cannot account for what might happen.

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