Refuse workers and the public in Harlow are being “put at risk by a slew of safety failures”, a trade union has claimed.

Unison health and safety reps say they uncovered a “litany of breaches” during an inspection of waste management company Veolia’s Mead Park depot.

The union says it discovered faulty emergency stops on at least two vehicles on a visit on August 25.

The safety feature is designed to prevent loss of life or limb if a worker is accidentally caught in the tipper or rough-sleepers are discovered in bins.

Read more: Strike action that would have hit Harlow bin collections called off

When Unison reps visited the depot August 5, it says its reps highlighted three faulty emergency stops but said only one has been fixed.

Unison added that on one vehicle, the bin holder is held together with gaffer tape, while on another, jagged bumper edges have been tied up with shoe laces.

The rubber on the loading hoppers has also worn down on most vehicles, say the reps, leaving the rubbish liable to spill out.

As well as the “shoddy fleet”, Unison has warned new starters are not receiving training on the correct type of vehicles, putting them at risk of injury, and added reps report rising levels of stress due to “unmanageable workloads”.

Unison regional manager Caroline Hennessy said: “Harlow’s refuse staff are expected to go out in all weathers in a rickety, unsafe fleet. 

“Veolia is putting its staff and the general public at risk of serious injury through failing to keep its vehicles in safe working order or provide proper training to new starters. 

“Veolia must urgently improve safety at Mead Park for the sake of workers and residents alike.”

A Veolia spokesperson responded: "Veolia is committed to the highest standards of fleet and driver safety.  All our Harlow vehicles are subject to a comprehensive and rigorous inspection regime, with inspections undertaken by drivers, the contract management team and internal and external fleet compliance inspectors.

"We would never allow any vehicle to operate with a defective emergency stop or recovery button and our records confirm this is correct. We also hold regular safety forums in partnership with Unison where all fleet safety issues are addressed."