If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Wheelie stupid

This story got my back up.

A man who is thought to have climbed into a bin before being crushed to death in a dust cart has been identified as a 35-year-old Londoner. Sussex Police said Scott Williams, from Wembley, had been reported missing an hour after his body was found at Sussex Waste Recycling Ltd in Newhaven.

Now that is very sad; tragic, even. But look at the way it is handled by the 'authorities':

Police believe Mr Williams, who had been out with a friend and was seen in public houses in Brighton until 0100 BST on Sunday, had been in one of the large wheelie bin used by blocks of flats or businesses. Officers are investigating how he came to be there and are treating his death as unexplained rather than suspicious.

Not too hard to work this one out, I would have thought. He's out on the razz, late Saturday night, and he unaccountably decides to climb in a wheelie bin. A pound to a penny he was royally pissed and decided to hop in for a kip. Or a 'laugh'.

The GMB union has called for large wheelie bins to be checked individually before they are emptied into refuse trucks.

You bet they have. Look out for next year's story - a demarcation dispute between bin emptiers and bin checkers, with pay differentials and guaranteed non-working time a key issue.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: "This is a tragic incident. The council has warned people not to get into our bins and have put stickers on the 700 street bins. We are also putting them on the other 1,000 bins we have in bin stores to remind everyone of the dangers. In addition we have worked with groups across the city to raise the issue with vulnerable people. We really hope the message gets across so that this isn't repeated."

This is the bit that sent my blood pressure up to Saturn-rocket launch levels. Someone, believe it or not, has been sent to put stickers on wheelie bins warning people not to get inside. And then they are employing outreach workers to "raise the issue" across the city. And who has paid for all of that? Don't answer.

I don't know what amazes me the more:

1. That the Council thought it was a good way to spend ratepayers' money (have they nothing better to spend it on?);

2. That the Council are so frightened of being sued that they have lost all reason and regard stickering wheelie bins against drunken louts as a 'reasonable precaution' and part of a duty of care to the general public;

3. Or that our legal system is likely to fine said Council large sums of money because they didn't take action to prevent people doing something which, frankly, a five-year-old child could have seen was a bit stupid.

My money's on all three.

At the risk of sounding like an old codger (which I am not; I am a delayed-teenage codger), this kind of thing was one of the first lessons I was taught when I was old enough to be let out by myself, i.e. about ten minutes after I could tie my own shoelaces. Do. Not. Climb. Into. Things. That. You. Cannot. Get. Out. Of.

Bins, abandoned fridges, manhole covers, mine shafts. Just don't. It's so basic.

I am sorry that someone has lost his life in an accident (not an incident), but to be honest, unless he was stone-cold sober and someone forced him in there and slammed the lid, it's his own silly fault. And that, to me, is the end of it. We are not all infants, and sometimes actions have consequences. We need to get used to that.

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