Safety calls after bin lorry driver fell asleep

A bin lorry driver fell asleep at the wheel. Picture: Scott Taylor
A bin lorry driver fell asleep at the wheel. Picture: Scott Taylor
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DEMANDS have been made for regular checks to ensure the Capital’s bin lorry drivers are fit to work after reports an agency worker fell asleep at the wheel and swerved across a road.

Union and opposition leaders in Edinburgh said temporary drivers drafted in by the city council were too often left “to get on with the job” and should be subject to the same vetting procedures as in-house staff.

And they have backed the introduction of tougher procedures to maintain performance and safety standards, including regular health checks.

The calls came after it emerged that a bin lorry driver – hired by the council from the Adecco agency – dozed off twice during a shift, causing his vehicle to veer across Lanark Road.

Transport managers terminated the driver’s contract as soon as reports were received from co-workers, but critics said the episode highlighted the need for action.

The Edinburgh incident – which is understood not to have been caused by an underlying health issue – happened on January 20, only weeks after six pedestrians in Glasgow were killed by a runaway bin lorry.

Mary Alexander, deputy regional secretary of trade union Unite in Scotland, said: “The fact that [temporary and agency workers] are on precarious employment contracts means they will take on more hours when they are actually too tired to do that, for example. Agency workers should undergo the same health and safety checks and the same training as permanent council employees, but the short-term nature of their contract necessitates against this.

“They are brought in and just get on with the job, and the health and safety is not being adhered to in the same way as a long-term council worker who is in secure employment. What we want to do is work with the council to ensure that people are directly employed and fully trained.”

Councillor Paul Edie, leader of the city’s Lib Dems, said: “Better health and safety checks is something that needs looked into. We should be making sure that anyone working on behalf of the council is fully able to do the job. Maybe it is something that should be written into the contract.”

City chiefs insisted use of agency staff was kept to a minimum and said all drivers were subject to rigorous licence checks and assessments, including five-year medical examinations when renewing permits.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport leader, said: “All agency and permanent staff are fully qualified and trained to carry out the job they are required to do. To ensure the safety of the public and employees they are subject to the regular licence checks and driver assessments, as well as necessary health checks and monitoring by management.”

An Adecco spokeswoman said: “Mandatory checks are conducted on all candidates, as well as ensuring that they are suitably qualified for the role.”