Core messaging during the COVID -19 pandemic has focused on the role each citizen plays in bringing the situation under control. Good hygiene and social distancing have been spoken about widely and it is acknowledged that the latter is the primary risk control measure.
The role of key workers has also been widely discussed, such as the value of NHS staff and care workers, the role of educators and the rapid transition to home schooling. And as I sit here at home thinking about the 27million households in the UK on lockdown, and the impact on people and their communities, I can hear a familiar sound; that of another vital front line service – the refuse lorry.
Today it’s the brown bin (garden waste) then next week the green bin (general waste) followed by the blue bin (mixed recyclables). A driver plus two crew, who are walking at the recommended “socially-distanced” measure of two metres apart, loading the bins separately and putting them back on the pavement. No householders in evidence, so no issues about social distancing there either… but then they jump back in the cab.
The Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum, which works with that industry’s key stakeholders across the UK, has recently introduced its COVID-19 and Waste Management Activities guidelines. These help us all identify how we can each make a contribution to reducing the risk to refuse collection workers, who let’s face it provide a vital public health function. Just think about the impact of failing to collect refuse.
For everyone the message “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” is punchy, however, if anyone in your household has or is suspected to have COVID-19 symptoms, refuse workers need you to do a little bit more to help protect them: double-bag your waste, and wait 72 hours before putting it into the bin.
For public and private sector organisations involved in waste collection, the guidelines, which are being reviewed weekly, help you to manage your business within this period of change.
However, the WISH guidelines present all employers – whether involved in the waste industry or not – an interesting case study on how to safely manage people that need to continue working in proximity to others, despite social distancing rules.
As part of our webinar series on the international occupational health and safety response to the COVID outbreak, I’ll be speaking to Chris Jones, who led on the development of the guidelines, and Adam Hinson, the head of compliance at RoSPA Award winner Acumen Waste, to find out what we can all learn from the waste industry as we strive to keep all of our employees safe and healthy.
The webinar is free to RoSPA members and award winners. See www.rospa.com/Events/RoSPA-Webinars for more details.