A mate for solidarity

The EnviroWaste trucks should be two-person operated

by Don Franks

Junior Hunt, a 20-year-old recycling truck driver critically injured by the machine he was operating, has died.

In an awful accident that need not have happened.

The worker, caught in the mechanism of an EnviroWaste recycling truck in Thorndon, Wellington was found unconscious but still alive by a member of the public. There was some delay before anyone could be found who knew how to release the machinery and free the trapped injured man.

“We are devastated by this tragedy,” EnviroWaste chief executive Gary Saunders said. Mr Saunders added that  family and staff had been offered counselling and other support as they began to work through their grief.

“We will endeavour to understand how and why this accident happened – this is our commitment to Junior’s memory and his family.”

He said the company would continue to work with authorities as investigations into the circumstances of the accident were carried out over the coming weeks.

This model of EnviroWaste truck has been a familiar sight in our street for a couple of years.

I have always hated the sight of it.

The truck model is a single-operating one. The machine is designed so that the sole worker on the job can driver, stop to leap out, pick up and load recycling and drive off again.

Basic road safety says that just the act of driving a large heavy vehicle is a job in itself.

The logical thing for a recycling truck would be employing a driver and one or two labourers to get on and off to pick up the rubbish. That is what used to happen. Until one day a bright spark in an office somewhere said – hey, we can save a wage here, tweak the truck and make the driver do the lot.

No industrial job should be a solo job. Workers need a mate, a mate who can come to their aid when things go wrong.

A mate for companionship, to help make the hours of a crappy job pass faster.

A mate for solidarity.

If EnviroWaste do really want to honour the slain driver, they will immediately and permanently put two workers on the  job.

See also: Workplace death and injury – what Labour and the unions did


  1. Absolutely, Don. Exactly what I said when I heard of the tragedy on the news. I remember decades ago when we bought a new oven and a bloke arrived by himself and set about manhandling it into the house. I went to help him and said, “Christ, where’s your mate?” and he rolled his eyes and said, “Those days are long gone.”

  2. Another poor bastard got killed in a forklift accident yesterday, out at Gracefield. The boss said well one good thing was none of his workmates actually saw it so they wern’t quite so traumatised. In other words this guy was also on his own.

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