The waste management firm which operates the Beddington incinerator has been hit with a huge fine following the deaths of two workers in incidents at other English sites. 

Valencia Waste Management Ltd, formerly known as Viridor, has been fined £3million after Michael Atkin and Mark Wheatley died in separate incidents. 

Michael, a 63-year-old from Wetherby in West Yorkshire, died in October 2019 at Valencia’s site in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire. 

HGV driver Michael, who was employed by a different company, was working with a Valencia employee who was using a forklift truck to load the lorry with rows of bales. 

The Valencia employee was attempting to load a fourth row when some bales in the third row were dislodge and fell off the lorry, crushing Michael. 

Each bale weighed at least 820kg and the incident proved fatal. 

Janet Atkin, Michael’s partner, said: “Since the loss of Michael, it has left an enormous hole in my life, four years later I’m still traumatised and I don’t sleep well.” 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said: “It seems Michael had been securing the other bales onto the lorry before he was crushed.”   

A HSE investigation found it was not custom or practice at the site for bales to be loaded onto lorries while the driver was strapping bales which had previously been loaded onto the lorry flatbed. 

Systems were in place for drivers to remain within the cabs or in another safe location but this was not adhered to. 

Mark Wheatley, 31 from Sutton Coldfield, died in an incident at the Dartmoor National Park Conservation Works depot in Bovey Tracey, Devon, in January 2020. 

He was an agency worker on his second week who had been using a lorry to lift two skips at the same time, a method called ‘hot swapping’. 

However, the skups were not compatible and fell at an angle onto his lorry. 

He got onto the lorry bed to rectify this situation but the skips fell and struck him. 

Mark’s parents arrived at the scene of the incident following a phone call from their son asking for help. 

Sue said in a statement presented to the court: “Every single night as soon as I close my eyes, I see Mark lying crushed underneath the skip dead or dying. When we arrived at the scene we were held back by the police and so I couldn’t get close to him and couldn’t tell if he was dead or alive. 

“That image is what I see every single night when I close my eyes and every single morning before I open my eyes. I shouted out to him that we were there. I will never know if he heard that or not.” 

Keeley Martin, Mark’s partner, said in her victim personal statement: “To say Mark was my soulmate really is an understatement, he really was the kindest most caring man anyone could have the pleasure of meeting, he made a positive impact on everyone he met. 

“The day he was taken he took a part of me with him, I nor anyone who knew him will ever be the same again.” 

A HSE investigation found Valencia had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment into skip operations meaning that safe systems of work and appropriate training were not implemented, and skips were not maintained in an efficient state. 

On September 6, 2023, Valencia pleaded guilty to breaches of the the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. 

For the incident which led to Mark’s death, it was fined £2million. For the incident which led to Michael’s death it was fined £1,illion. 

The company was also ordered to pay combined costs of £21,054. 

Alan Hughes, senior enforcement lawyer at HSE, said: “These were two men at different stages of their lives, but the grief and pain across both families is devastating. 

“Both deaths were avoidable. More needs to be done to make the use of vehicles on waste and recycling sites safer. We have a wealth of advice and guidance freely available.”