Sunday, 8 June 2008

Binmen's teddy bear mascots banned over fears children will run into road and grab them


By Martin Delgado
07th June 2008

Binmen have been banned from carrying mascots such as teddy bears on their dustcarts – because of fears they are a health and safety risk to children.

Officials claim a child could be injured running out into the road to grab a toy.

But dustmen say the ban is ‘ludicrous’ and have pledged to get it overturned, even if that means risking disciplinary action.

binmen lorries

'Hazard': Mascots are a common sign on binmen's lorries, but one council has become one of the first in the country to ban them over health and safety fears

The crews often stand soft toys on their dashboards or tie them to the front of their vehicles as a bit of fun or to give the cart a little individuality.

But Haringey Council in North London has become one of the first in the country to stop the practice.

The instruction was revealed in a leaked memo from the company which collects the borough’s rubbish.

Doug Taylor, general manager of Haringey Enterprise, wrote: ‘Quite why adults would wish to decorate their vehicles this way is frankly beyond me.

These items could attract children who may run into the road and suffer injury. On the grounds of health and safety and presenting a professional image of our company, I want all such decorations disposed of with immediate effect.’

There was an instant protest from the GMB union, which represents  refuse workers.

National organiser Justin Bowden said: ‘I’ve never heard of this happening before. It’s absolutely crackers and completely unjustified. These managers have taken leave of their senses. It’s just ludicrous.

‘Collecting refuse is a dirty, mundane and repetitive business. The lads like a mascot because it brightens up their day and gives the wagon a little bit of individuality. It’s become a tradition over the years and I don’t think my members will take too kindly to being told to drop it.’

Colin Gleeson, the GMB official who represents Haringey’s binmen, said: ‘Nearly all the fleet have got mascots. It’s a way of personalising the truck.’

One dustman said: ‘There are lots of ways an accident could happen on the round but a child jumping in front of the truck to grab a teddy definitely isn’t one of them.

‘The bosses would be better off concentrating on real health and safety issues such as the weight of rubbish we have to lift and avoiding getting knocked down by impatient motorists.

‘We will keep on about this whatever the bosses say,’ the dustman said.

Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone said: ‘You have got to laugh. Haringey’s streets are among the dirtiest in London.

‘I wish the council would concentrate on improving its services rather than worrying about teddy bears.’

Haringey Enterprise said: ‘This instruction has been issued to ensure that vehicles represent the company in a professional manner and to avoid the hazards that might arise from items obstructing the view of drivers and the possibility that children may approach vehicles to touch cuddly toys.’

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