‘Health and safety’ means bin left ajar not lifted

The bin which the bin men refused to empty.  Picture: contributed
The bin which the bin men refused to empty. Picture: contributed
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BIN men cited health and safety fears as their reason for refusing to collect a wheelie bin left fractionally ajar by a trapped plastic bag.

The red tape ruling has prompted stunned criticism of Midlothian Council, which explained the two-thirds full bin could not be emptied because of the rogue bag that had become trapped.

Susan Wright with the unemptied bin. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Susan Wright with the unemptied bin. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Outraged mum-of-three Susan Wright has been left utterly disgusted by the “bonkers” decision. She said: “It’s health and safety gone nuts.”

Photos taken of the 39-year-old’s bin show the edge of a rubbish bag accidentally jammed in the lid, leaving a gap of a few inches.

It should have been emptied after she left it for collection outside her Dalkeith home on Wednesday morning.

However, an official response from Midlothian Council sent to Mrs Wright stressed bin men would now not empty any bins where the lid was open, regardless of whether the object was overflowing or not, due to health and safety reasons.

Mrs Wright was left stunned by the response and said she was not the only householder being caught out by pedantic bin men.

She said: “It’s not just me. There’s been eight to ten bins around this area that haven’t been picked up for lids being ajar less than 2-3cm. Surely there’s common sense that tells you that you can lift a bin lid up to see if the bin is overflowing or not or whether a bag’s just caught. They didn’t even bother to do that.

“They go on about health and safety of their workers, but what about the health and safety of my family? We’re a family of five, I’ve got a young baby and I’ve now got to store a month’s worth of bin 
rubbish.”

Mrs Wright, whose three children are aged five, three and ten months, has filed a written complaint to the 
council after being told the collection teams would not be picking up her rubbish for another fortnight.

In an official response, council contact centre team leader Hazel Kerr said: “I can only apologise that the bin was not emptied. As you know, due to health and safety regulations, the bin men are now not emptying bins where the lid is open. This is a procedure that they are following very strictly.

“It is unlikely that the men will call back to empty your bin. I understand that in this case it was not due to the bin overflowing. I have therefore passed your concerns onto the waste management team for information.”

Dalkeith ward Councillor Margot Russell said it looked like a “mistake” had been made by the bin men and that common sense had not been used. She said: “I’ve seen buckets where the lid is halfway open and it’s full. The policy at the moment is that the guys wouldn’t touch that, but this particular one it’s only a smidgeon – a wee bit – open. They’ve maybe taken the guidelines too strictly.”

Midlothian Council is receiving about 200 calls a day from residents about bins not being uplifted. The sickness rate amongst the authority’s 100 staff employed in waste management and street cleaning is about 20 per cent.

Edinburgh City Council has faced similar criticism for taking a tough stance on rubbish collection. The Evening News revealed in August that 72 complaints were being lodged across the city every day over the fortnightly bin collections.

dale.miller@edinburghnews.com