Briefing Note on Covid-19

This document draws on the latest guidance and understanding as at 20 March 2020 and will be updated and reissued as appropriate

  1. Introduction

This briefing note is designed to help organisations in the resources and waste management industry to take into account available sources of guidance when considering their emergency operational response to cope with the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Latest news

Latest guidance and information from Whitehall.

CIWM has welcomed the government’s decision to include workers in the waste sector on the list of those considered to be critical to the Covid-19 response. Yesterday, CIWM and other industry organisations galvanised to send a clear message to the government that the waste sector has a critical role to play in protecting public health. See the CIWM letter here government have also issued guidance.

There is also guidance on infection prevention and control, including use and removal of PPE for those that require it.

Latest updates and advice from other countries – Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

The Coronavirus Bill is progressing through Parliament.

Contingency planning and service adaptation is already happening in the sector – Brighton and Hove have suspended green collections, Wiltshire Council have included detailed information under the waste and recycling collections tab, Cambridge City Council have also suspended their green collection service and Dorset Council have prioritised services. – CIWM will be looking to share how the sector is responding in more detail next week.

  1. Background

Plans appropriate to pandemics should have been made at a strategic level through the emergency planning system. These plans include measures to ensure continuity of essential services to sectors such as healthcare, power generation, emergency services etc.

CIWM advises that similar plans may be needed throughout the resources and waste management industry and in particular for:

  • local authorities
  • businesses responsible for waste collection
  • waste management facility operators; and
  • environmental regulators.

The Public Health England (PHE) has issued general advice for patients that need to home isolate, which includes a section on handling waste from households.

PHE guidelines confirm that the spread of infection can be prevented by good personal hygiene routines, and that wastes from infected people can be managed alongside normal municipal wastes and collection routines, after 72 hours.

Clearly, where any such wastes arise through healthcare establishments, they should be managed under the specific regimes already in place for them. PHE have issued guidance for healthcare providers.

  1. Contingency Arrangements

Contingency arrangements may need to be considered for the following subjects:

Emergency plans

Existing waste collection and management procedures and emergency plans should already be in place. These may have been tested and amended in the light of experience. However, in a pandemic situation these plans may come under additional strain due to pressures on the available staff and further consideration of factors such as access to temporary resources and shift patterns may be needed.

Workforce Pressures and Staff Training

Increasingly, resources and waste management is a specialist industry involving the collection and transport of heterogeneous wastes via a range of service types, in complex vehicles, and the treatment and disposal of that waste in facilities requires highly trained and skilled staff.

If the deployment of temporary staff is required great care needs to be taken to ensure that no person working with waste should do so without being adequately trained, supported and protected.

Each operator and/or local authority should be aware of the key areas in their operations which are vulnerable if a significant proportion of the workforce is ill, especially where small numbers of key people or teams have specific skills or knowledge essential to the safe and effective service operation.

Discussions should be taking place in relation to operation of facilities that cannot easily be shutdown (if required) so consider what plans and procedures need to be in place for AD, energy from waste, etc.

Basic occupational hygiene standards of glove use and hand hygiene should be reinforced through effective staff training and if necessary, through the use of spot checks and constant review.

Supply chain

Consideration should also be given to potential impacts on supply chains, including availability of fuel, PPE, essential chemicals for cleaning or for waste treatment operations.

Public Health

Public health considerations determine that wastes, especially putrescible waste, should be dealt before they themselves pose a health or amenity risk. Any plan should consider contingencies in the event of collection service disruption such as short term and temporary storage arrangements, and specific additional guidance to householders.

Commercial and Industrial waste producers may need to be reminded about the importance of treating, bagging and dealing with their wastes effectively.

Contractual Requirements

Inevitably, contractual financial and regulatory issues may arise where changes to services or arrangements are needed. These could have a major impact on service viability or continuity.

CIWM recommends early discussion between local authorities, private and community sector contractors and regulators to make and agree effective plans and to monitor and amend them if conditions change. Some local authorities already have, or will pursue, collaborative arrangements with neighbouring authorities. Arrangements of this sort could be particularly useful in managing temporary disruption of waste services.

Medical Certification

Current arrangements for the self certification of illness may be amended. This issue should be closely monitored as current proposals may allow for the amendment of the self-certification period.

Employees who are exhibiting signs of illness are recommended to stay at home and do not leave the house for 7 days from start of symptoms. More information on support if taking time off due to Covid-19 can be found here, and there is also information on sick pay under Covid-19 available.

  1. Plan Testing, Modification and Review

When a contingency plan is prepared it should be tested against realistic conditions. Any lessons learned, positive or negative, may then be included as changes following the test.

  1. Communications

Information and updates come from a variety of sources including health professionals, national medical alerts, Government pronouncements, inter-company or inter-authority statements etc. These should be included wherever relevant in the plan and any review.

Communications with employees and the public are critical (see example leaflet) in that all have a part to play. All staff should be aware of their responsibilities especially if these are likely to change to reflect circumstances in the short term. If routines for the public are to change, they should be made aware using any available routes including social media, local media, publications and less formal communications such a newsletters.

It should be noted that normal means for effective consultation and the provision of information to employees should still take place.

  1. Conclusion

It is not possible here to identify all of the elements that should be included in any contingency plan as this will be designed around the key areas of responsibility and service delivery appropriate to each area.

A number of additional sources of information may also be available, including:

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