A hierarchy of preferred options should be developed to reduce the risks to waste collections crews and individual drivers operating vehicles, CIWM has said, as it responds to draft health and safety guidance.
The Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) issued new information, which was published for consultation, which intends to provide basic advice on waste management operations, information on what to do if an employee/s develops symptoms and advice on contingency planning.
With the spread of COVID-19 and the current need for social distancing, there have been questions among the waste management sector regarding how to implement this in a situation where waste collections crews work together in close confines in the cabs of waste collection vehicles.
CIWM has highlighted three key areas where it says there is a “need for greater clarity and consensus
The document says: “Consideration should be given to reducing the number of persons who must share cab space where this is practicable.”
CIWM’s expert networks have responded to the consultation and provided feedback which has been communicated back to WISH.
Drawing on this feedback, the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) has highlighted three key areas where it says there is a “need for greater clarity and consensus” to ensure that the waste sector is taking a “consistent approach” to managing the risks associated with COVID-19 and ensure that “essential waste and recycling collections continue”.
Social distancing and collection crews
A hierarchy of preferred options should be developed to reduce the risks to collections crews and individual drivers operating vehicles, CIWM says.
While acknowledging that local circumstances such as rurality and the configuration of collection rounds will have a bearing on the approach taken, feedback from CIWM members suggests that the preferred option should be to move to a Driver + 1 system in the cab, with established crews staying together and effectively working as ‘members of the same household’.
An additional crew member travelling in a separate vehicle can work where necessary along with appropriate round/frequency adaptation (it should be noted that this applies primarily to local authority collections rather than C&I collections where driver-only rounds are more common).
The preferred option should be to move to a Driver + 1 system in the cab, with established crews staying together and effectively working as ‘members of the same household’
Where the Driver + 1 option is not practicable, other measures such as crews travelling independently to meet RCVs on site, additional shifts and service frequency changes, should be considered.
Where individual drivers are engaged in the emptying and /or exchange of waste containers, advice should be given on maintaining safe distancing while at collection or disposal sites, including the arrangement of paperless waste transfer notes.
Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs)
CIWM says it supports the WISH statement that: “As CA/HWRC sites are places where members of the public may meet in numbers local authorities can be encouraged to consider closing the sites until social distancing is relaxed. If there is necessity and it is essential for CA/HWRC sites remain open…” and would reinforce that the rationale for keeping HWRCs open to the public while strict social distancing measures are in place, except in exceptional circumstances, is weak for a number of reasons:
- It effectively contravenes the Government’s instruction that citizens should only leave the house for essential tasks, these being:
- shopping for basic necessities
- one form of exercise a day
- any medical need or to provide care / help a vulnerable person
- travelling for essential work purposes
- Most HWRCs are not laid out in such a way that social distancing can be effectively maintained, putting both operatives and members of the public at risk. Approaches such as restricting the flow of traffic to the site to enable effective social distancing may have impacts beyond the site, including unacceptable and potentially unsafe levels of congestion on access roads
- Evidence from CIWM members prior to the widespread closure of HWRCs highlighted examples of “unacceptable public behaviour” at HWRCs which put site operatives at additional risk.
HWRCs do provide valuable services, however, and their closure increases pressure on kerbside collections and recycling and disposal routes for some businesses.
CIWM is, therefore, prepared to work with WISH, industry stakeholders and UK governments as appropriate to develop a protocol to determine if and when strategic HWRC sites could be opened and to establish guidelines to ensure they can be operated safely according to social distancing requirements.
Current and future advice may also need to note that different waste streams may appear in the residual waste stream as a result of HWRC closures or restrictions, some of which may also pose additional risks e.g. broken mirrors/glass.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hygiene
Greater clarity is needed in a number of areas related to PPE and hygiene, CIWM says.
Additionally, it says more detailed guidance on the safe use and removal of PPE is needed to avoid workers inadvertently contaminating themselves – a risk that has already been identified in the health service.
For example, hands should be cleaned first before removing face masks and again after, and only the straps should be touched rather than the fabric of the mask.
Mustering and breaks
CIWM says the guidance needs to be more “explicit” with regard to observing social distancing during start-of-day and end-of-day mustering, breaks, shift changes, etc, across all relevant sections of the guidance (ie, the sections on collections or transfer stations) as many operational teams may muster pre-start and at the end of the working day.
Advice could also include consideration being given to staggered break times for employees, it says.
Deep cleaning and 72 hour park up
Further detail is needed on effective “deep clean” procedures where a case of COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed, CIWM says.
Feedback suggests that waiting for 72 hours before a deep clean “may not be practicable” if vital services are not to be impacted, CIWM says, particularly in the case of vehicles, but also for shared areas, office areas, etc.
Aligned to these key issues, CIWM said it believes that “further work” is needed to communicate to the public that people should avoid major DIY, spring cleans and garden overhauls, whilst their waste collections services and other local council services are under pressure.
CIWM said it will “continue to contribute to and support collaborative industry efforts to ensure that workers in the resources and waste sector are well informed, trained and equipped to work safely”.