With PPE of particular importance during the coronavirus pandemic, Defra seeks to clarify what is considered essential, what the consequences of it not being available will mean, and what current levels of stock are like.
The matter is to be discussed on at a meeting on 2 April. Meetings between Defra and representatives of the waste management industry are being held weekly during the current coronavirus crisis.
Matter of urgency
A letter sent to councils by Defra reads: “With apologies for the delay in issuing this request, but as discussed we are discussing PPE requirements as a matter of urgency.
“Similar conversations are being held across the economy and we therefore need to be crystal clear on what PPE is essential, what the consequences of this not being available will mean, and what current levels of stock are like i.e. when will this become an issue across the waste sector.”
“We are discussing PPE requirements as a matter of urgency”
Specifically, Defra is looking for current stock levels and how many staff that will supply and for how long, the essential PPE required for each role, whether councils have experienced any issues with their usual supply chains, and the consequences of running out of each piece of PPE.
Defra says it may share its summary, collated findings and returns with representatives from the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments to help with UK-wide considerations and planning.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus PPE has been described by multiple sources as essential.
In a draft advice document about managing COVID-19 risks in the context of a range of waste management activities the UK’s Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) emphasised the importance of gloves (see letsrecycle.com story).
WISH says: “Glove use in particular MUST be enforced (with nitrile gloves underneath if possible).”
However, the value of face masks to waste sector employees remains a moot point.
Public Health England advice currently reads: “We do not recommend the use of facemasks as an effective means of preventing the spread of infection.
“Face masks play an important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals, but there’s very little evidence of benefit from their use outside of these settings.”
And, WISH says waste industry workers are unlikely to encounter the same level of risk as those workers caring for COVID-19 patients, though, where an employee would usually be expected to wear respiratory protection as part of their normal job they should continue to do so.