28 March 2020 by Steve Eminton

WISH issues waste and COVID-19 advisory document

The UK’s Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) has published a draft advice document about managing COVID-19 (coronavirus) risks in the context of a range of waste management activities.

The document, released on Friday 27 March 2020, is expected to become a key document for the waste management sector and local authorities even before it is finalised – changes may be made following feedback. A very short consultation period, until ‘close of play’ on 31 March 2020 has been given by WISH for responses to be received.

View the draft HERE and responses should be sent by email to info@wishforum.org.uk.

The document will sit alongside United Kingdom Government and other coronavirus advice, such as from the Health and Safety Executive (see letsrecycle.com HSE story HERE). The WISH work is expected to attract international attention as many countries are seeking advice on waste management and COVID-19 although WISH has emphasised that it is currently (as of 28 March) still a draft document for consultation.


WISH says in the document that the UK has an “unprecedented situation which requires swift guidance to the waste management industry as a key service during the current pandemic. This WISH information note is intended to provide basic advice on waste management operations, information on what to do if an employee/s develops symptoms, advice on contingency planning and similar.” The chair of the WISH Forum is Chris Jones, director of risk management at Cory Energy.

(above) list of contents of the WISH document


Advice is given in the document about how collection crews should be handled in relation to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Referencing Public Health England, the document notes:

The WISH document gives information on crew health and safety

“If a person has only been in indirect/potential contact with someone who has or is under investigation of having COVID-19, and is not showing any symptoms, there is no reason for them to stop work and go home. Likewise, even if an employee has been confirmed or is under investigation of having COVID-19 there is no need to send the whole of the rest of the workforce home, although thorough cleaning of the area they work in (office/cab/rest room etc) is recommended (using soap and water or alcohol based wipes).

For example, if a household collections operative has been confirmed as having or is being investigated for COVID-19 then the collections crew they work directly with should be sent home, but not all other collection crews based at the same site (unless they are also displaying the symptoms).


On handling waste, WISH notes that “Some of the latest research indicates the virus could survive on cardboard for 24 hours, and metal/plastics for up to 72 hours. It is important to note this work exposed these surfaces to high concentrations in a laboratory environment and is therefore likely to be the ‘worst case’ scenario. It is good practice to ensure a high standard of hygiene when handling waste materials, as should always be the case in waste management activities. The virus survives on the skin for more than enough time to allow hand to mouth/nose/eyes transmission.”

Advice to managers is that they must enforce normal controls aimed at the hazards which may be posed by contact with wastes, whether for COVID-19 or other hazards, including:

  • PPE use – glove use in particular MUST be enforced (with nitrile gloves underneath if possible). Also see advice on glove use at https://www.hse.gov.uk/skin/employ/gloves.htm.
  •  Good hygiene practices should be enforced, and employees reminded of these at frequent intervals

WISH Forum
The draft COVID-19 WISH document and other WISH papers can be seen at: https://wishforum.org.uk/?page_id=33

Other useful information sources listed by WISH include:

NHS https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

UK Government, households – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

UK Government, businesses https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

UK Government, decontamination in non-healthcare settings https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings

EU Health professionals factsheet on coronavirus https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/factsheet-health-professionals-coronaviruses


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