The fifth version of the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum’s guidance document – COVID-19 and Waste Management Activities
The fifth version of the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum’s guidance document entitled COVID-19 and Waste Management Activities highlights a number of aspects concerning safety in the workplace now that the workforce begins to return back to work.
The contents include COVID-19 – why it may be a problem for waste management and RIDDOR, what to do if an employee shows the symptoms, general precautions, changes made in response to COVID-19 and specific advice, one of which focuses on vehicles and collections operations.
In the vehicles and collections operations section, the guidance states the following information:
Obeying 2-metre Social Distancing may not be reasonably practicable for personnel who work together in the cabs of some waste collection vehicles. However, as an essential service, it is important collection operations continue. Measures to be considered:
▪ Can the collection be suspended, or reduced? For commercial waste collections, many customers may be closed or running at reduced capacity – collections from such customers could be suspended, or the frequency reduced.
▪ If reasonably practicable, use single-person operation. For many commercial waste collections, this is already the case, and for others, it may be practical to reduce twin person operation to single-person, provided that safety is not compromised.
Having considered the above, the below applies to ALL collection activities, and in addition to the general precautions given above:
▪ Cabs should have available alcohol or soap-based cleansing and/or wipes available for all surfaces which should be cleaned periodically throughout the day and especially at the end of each shift. Cleaning should pay particular attention to door handles, handholds/rails, dashboards, steering wheels, hand-brake levers, gearbox and other controls and indicator stalks etc.
▪ Where fitted, ‘pop-up’ sinks on waste collection vehicles should be subject to the same rigorous cleaning regimes as for any other welfare facility. Where pop-up sinks are fitted, disposable paper towels or similar should be available to dry hands
▪ Where a vehicle may have been used by someone displaying the symptoms of COVID-19, or a confirmed case, then the vehicle should either be decontaminated thoroughly (see advice at www.gov.uk) or if this is not reasonably practicable parked up and not used for a minimum of 72 hours
▪ Collections operations may result in contact with members of the public/customer employees. Social Distancing should be followed (at least 2 metres/>6 feet away from other persons). Should this prove impossible and in extreme cases, members of the public may display aggressive and potentially violent behaviour. All such cases must be reported, and collections operatives informed to contact the police immediately if they are threatened. As is the case for any assault on a worker consideration should be given their mental and physical wellbeing including referral to counselling or medical services as appropriate
▪ Safety precautions which would normally be taken, such as the use of respiratory protection during the collection of waste which is particularly dusty or might shed significant fibres must be maintained
▪ Normal monitoring processes to check crews are following good standards of safety should be continued, and the scope of monitoring extended to include maintenance of Social Distancing and enhanced concentration on hygiene practices and glove-use
▪ Normal precautions aimed at reducing the risk of ‘sleepers in bins’ and hazardous items in waste streams, such as gas cylinders, should be maintained
Some organisations have fitted, or are considering fitting, Perspex or similar screens in vehicle cabs. Specific to cabs, and in addition to the general design risk assessment requirements noted in the section above on change management, the following should also be considered:
▪ The material used should be appropriate to reduce risks such as the screen shattering in the event of a road traffic collision producing shards which may cause injury
▪ The blocking of or impeded access to safety-critical controls
▪ Distortion of driver vision resulting from an installed screen
▪ Screens should be subject to the same cleaning regime as the rest of the cab
▪ Emergency escape from the cab
If the installation of screens is being considered, advice should be sought from the vehicle manufacturer/supplier or a suitably qualified and experienced vehicle engineer to ensure critical safety aspects are not compromised.
To read the full guidance go to www.wishforum.org.uk