Social distancing, PPE and safety for waste collection workers
The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Crisis is having a huge impact in every corner of society at present.
Those who work in Edinburgh Council’s Waste Services have been categorised by the Council as Key or Essential Workers. This is the same as workers in Waste Collection in all Scottish Councils.
Although Waste Collection workers are required to attend at work, so long as you are healthy and do not require to be off for any of the reasons outlined by the government, you have a right to have your health and safety at work safeguarded by your employer.
The Branch had been receiving numerous reports from members in Waste Services who were deeply concerned about current safety practices in Waste Services. As a result the Branch undertook to speak to as many people employed in Waste Services as possible so as to get a full and accurate picture to take back to Council management.
In particular the following was repeatedly raised:
- Problems with the supply of PPE, including inadequate supplies of gloves, antibacterial wipes, spray, cloths and hand sanitiser.
- There were particular concerns raised regarding the ability to maintain recommended social distancing. Some reported that it was regularly the case that there were three and four people to a cab and that the set up in depots was not conducive to maintaining recommended social distancing measures.
- Vehicle cabs, where social distance measures were not being adequately maintained, were not being cleaned at end of day.
- Washing facilities on the side of vehicles weren’t working properly .
The Branch has raised all of these concerns with Waste Management and the steps below should now be in place.
New safety measures in place
As a result of dialogue with the Council, members and workers should expect to see the following to be in place while on shift:
Personal protection measures
Full PPE, including gloves and gel sanitiser, should be readily available for all. In addition there should be a ready supply of cloths, spray and anti bacterial wipes for wiping down cabs during the course of a shift.
The hand washing facilities on the side of vehicles have been repaired where necessary to ensure they are fully functioning for regular hand washing. In addition the Council have said they will bring in two additional lorries with handwashing facilities.
There will be an end of day clean of each vehicle cab and touch points around lorries in service.
Provision of list of places where hand washing will be made available by the Council.
Commitment to using same vehicle and crew each day where possible.
New in-cab arrangements while on route
The Council have now moved to a system of 1 driver and 1 collector in collection vehicles and 1 driver and cleaning operative in cleansing vehicles with a caveat that this will be actively reviewed to minimise risk to members.
To compliment the measures outlined above, the Council are providing pool cars to enable loaders to get direct to their routes and avoid going to depots at the end of the shift. Where pool cars are not available Community Transport buses will be made available to maintain 1 plus 1 system in cabs.
We have also requested that where 2m social distancing is problematic in cab, that the Council provide a supply of face masks.
Social distancing measures have been put in place with extra cleaning of depots and training rooms now scheduled. In addition there will be extra toasters and kettles provided at depots to allow social distancing of 2 metre to be maintained
Break times will also be staggered to prevent congestion.
If you have any concerns or would like further advice or guidance from Unite please speak with one of your local Unite reps.
General advice and guidance
Maintaining social distancing: What the Council have said.
Obeying the 2-metre rule of social distancing is extremely difficult for personnel who must work together in the cabs of waste collection vehicles.
However, implementing the guidance such as reducing the number of personnel within the cab space, additional cleaning and following the given procedures ensuring colleagues with suspected symptoms are sent home immediately, the risk should be low.
Collections operations may result in contact between you and members of the public. In these cases, social distancing should be followed (keep at least 2 metres from other persons). Should this prove impossible, such as a member of the public not being willing to ‘stand away from their bin’ the waste should not be collected
Maintain social distancing. Regularly wash your hands. If you have any concerns raise it with your line manager first. If you remain dissatisfied with what the employer is saying to you contact your local Unite rep immediately.