27 March 2020 by James Langley

HSE adds to national coronavirus guidance

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a bulletin of the latest information and guidance pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic which will be of relevance to the waste and recycling sector.

The bulletin from the HSE comes amid a number of national information documents issued by organisations within the waste management sector this week in response to the virus, some of which are outlined below.

Drivers

Chief among the HSE’s concerns this week is that all drivers must have access to welfare facilities in the premises they visit as part of their work.

Hands should be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

The public safety body has reaffirmed that it is against the law to refuse drivers access to toilets and hand-washing facilities at any premises to which they are delivering.

Furthermore, the HSE notes the Department for Transport has announced there will be a temporary and limited relaxation of the enforcement of drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland, and Wales for the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals.

However, drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired, the HSE said.

Specific guidelines pertaining to drivers can be found here. The current arrangements are subject to change.

Face masks

The HSE emphasises that tight-fitting respirators, such as disposable face masks and reusable half masks, rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face.

A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the respiratory protective equipment protects the wearer, the public safety body says.

Information on face masks can be found here.

Technically competent managers

Yesterday (26 March), WAMITAB, an awards body for waste sector training, issued updated guidance on the positions of Technically Competent Managers (TCMs) at waste sites during the coronavirus pandemic (see letsrecycle.com story).

Anyone who operates any form of waste activity must have a Technically Competent Manager at their site

Anyone who operates any form of waste activity must have appropriately qualified managers who are members of a government-approved technical competency scheme.

The WAMITAB guidance reads: “There is still a requirement to have a technically competent person as a requirement of the permit.

“The TCM attendance hours are within the guidance on GOV.UK and they are an indication that site activities are in being overseen by a technically competent manager.

“Where the TCM is self-isolating or sick and cannot attend the site, the operator should be able and capable of operating the plant or site safely through both their EMS and operations training.”

Key workers

On 19 March, recycling and waste sector employees were granted ‘key worker’ status by the government, meaning they would continue to receive educational and care provision for their children during the current coronavirus crisis (see letsrecycle.com story).

‘Key worker’ status means employees will continue to receive educational and care provision for their children

Schools have been asked to continue to provide care for a number of children but were closed to the majority from 23 March.

Receiving key worker status means the children of waste and recycling sector employees will be prioritised for schooling.

The move was welcomed by Jacob Hayler, executive director of the sector’s trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA), who said: “We are pleased to see the government acknowledge the essential role of recycling and waste operatives during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

MOTs

From 20 March, all heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), trailers and public service vehicles with an annual safety test due to expire were issued with a three-month certificate of exemption until further notice (see letsrecycle.com story).

Furthermore, licence tests for new drivers have been widely suspended but for identified key workers, which includes those working in the recycling and waste industry.

This means that trainee HGV drivers for the sector, who may be waiting to take their tests in the coming months, should still be able to do so.

Waste disposal

Public Health England has issued advice to the public on how to dispose of waste arising from possible cases of coronavirus and the cleaning of areas where possible cases have been (see letsrecycle.com story).

A microscopic view of the coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract (picture: Shuttesrstock)

The guidance reads: “[Waste] should be put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full. The plastic bag should then be placed in a second bin bag and tied. It should be put in a suitable and secure place and marked for storage until the individual’s test results are known.

“Waste should be stored safely and kept away from children. You should not put your waste in communal waste areas until negative test results are known or the waste has been stored for at least 72 hours.

“If the individual tests negative, this can be put in with the normal waste.

“If the individual tests positive, then store it for at least 72 hours and put in with the normal waste.”

The PHE advice on waste can be read in full here.

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