The Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum released the 10th version of its information document for managing coronavirus risks for waste management activities on 23 April.
While the WISH Forum said it was a routine “maintenance” update to the guidance that does not contain any “significant changes of approach”, there are updates on fresh air and ventilation, vaccination and discarded ‘rapid’ LFD tests.
Today’s updated guidance also includes additional experience gained with the management of Covid-19 risks since the last version in January (see letsrecycle.com story), and new scientific understanding of the virus and its transmission since that time.
The numerous links to relevant additional guidance have also been reviewed and updated.
The updated document can be accessed here and at the bottom of this page.
Fresh air and ventilation
Research and data collected since the start of the pandemic indicate that the risk of transmission is far lower outdoors than indoors, the guidance says, and that even indoors good ventilation can also be critical.
Employers should consider whether tasks which would normally be undertaken indoors can be safely done outdoors, and even where this is not practical or safe the role of good ventilation should be considered. For example, roller and other doors could be left open at workshops and offices, while windows could be opened in offices, weighbridges, shared vehicle cabs and similar.
Vaccination has a key role to play in reducing the effects of Covid-19, the guidance says. However, it adds that no vaccination programme is 100% and on its own it does not negate the need for other precautions.
It says people who have been vaccinated may tend to view other precautions such as social distancing as being less important. Employers need to be aware of this and reinforce the need for other precautions, and always follow government workplace advice.
Used LFD kits
As the result of expanded Covid-19 testing, the guidance says, used LFD kits are likely to appear in waste streams in large numbers over the medium- to long-term.
Users, such as members of the public and those in workplaces, are advised to bag used kits before disposing of them.
Even if the used kit comes from someone who tested positive there is little or no increase in risk to those working in waste management, the guidance says. The normal precautions taken by waste management operators against contamination are as effective for Covid-19 hazards as they are for any pathogen or other biological hazard, it adds.
Returning to ‘business as usual’
The document has expanded guidance on returning to ‘business as usual’. Covid-19 responses can include various changes to waste management services, the guidance says, perhaps most commonly the suspension of green and bulky waste collections and the temporary closure of household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and civic amenity (CA) sites. Whatever the changes made, the document advises resumption of services needs careful consideration and planning.
How and when services return to normal, or closer to normal, may in some circumstances depend on national policy, the guidance says.
The detail of such policy may vary between England, Scotland, and Wales and by local authority. Operators should check that they are following the policy relevant to the location of their operations.
Where businesses have been completely or partially closed for a period, employers should consider reviewing their Covid-19 risk assessment and control measures, communicating with their employees, and assessing any issues with machinery, structure, buildings or anything similar which may be associated with a period of inactivity. The guidance adds that such a period of inactivity is atypical for waste management businesses.
One significant change to the document is mention of new variants of the virus. The guidance explains that the novel coronavirus is a problematic pathogen because of how easily it is spread from human-to-human and because it has the potential to mutate.
It warns that new variants may be even more infectious, though the precautions to be taken will be the same no matter the variant.
In a statement issued today (27 April), the WISH Forum said it had received “numerous questions” about the easing of lockdown restrictions in relation to workplace health and safety regulations.
A spokesperson for the WISH Forum said: “The releasing of lockdown (the ‘lockdown roadmap’) is related to public health guidance and public health information. The regulation of health and safety in the workplace is a separate matter.
“The release of the public lockdown and the ‘lockdown roadmap’ does not, in itself, change the science which underlies the measures which should be taken to prevent or minimise the transmission of Covid in workplaces.
“The guidance and information issued by HM Government and the various specialist agencies for a ‘COVIDSAFE’ workplace has, therefore, not been changed by the release of the public lockdown.”