The UK’s Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum’s guidance document for managing coronavirus risks for waste management activities has been updated for the fourth time.
Released late on Friday (15 May), the fifth edition of the guidance includes a new section on workplace risk assessments and updated advice on face masks and a return to work for vulnerable people.
Chris Jones, chair of WISH said: “We are continuing to add some entirely new material, as well as assimilating feedback on the earlier versions and incorporating the ongoing best practice – and issues – that are being developed as the industry continues to adapt to the new ‘normal’.
“Although I’ve repeated it with every new issue release, I continue to send my genuine thanks to all of those who are contributing to the guidance by questioning, sending in information, and passing along their experiences from the front line.”
WISH says the government has recently issued guidance which, while not specific to waste management, provides useful advice on how to reduce the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace.
Guidance on warehousing may be of use to recycling plants, WISH says. This includes staggering arrival and departure times at work to reduce crowding and using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help workers keep to a two-metre distance. The government guidance can be read in full here.
Advice on vehicles is said by WISH to be of use to those operating collection activities. The advice includes scheduling to limit exposure to large crowds and rush hours where appropriate and revising pick-up and drop-off collection points and procedures with signage and marking. It can be read here.
And, WISH says the government advice on construction, which can be read here, could be of use to those operating recycling centres and landfill sites. The advice suggests the introduction of cleaning procedures after each use for the parts of shared equipment, tools and vehicles such as pallet trucks and forklift trucks.
Other changes in the document includes advice on carrying out risk assessments. WISH said that employers must undertake their own risk assessments which take account of their particular situation and circumstances.
“Risk assessment is one of the fundamental underpinnings of health and safety management and practice”
The guidance reads: “Risk assessment is one of the fundamental underpinnings of health and safety management and practice.
“Assessments may be workplace assessments, task specific assessments or aimed at specific risks.”
Specific controls may be required for activities, tasks and work areas, WISH says, and assessments should consider who may be harmed.
The involvement of the workforce and workers’ representatives can provide useful input, WISH suggests.
On face coverings, the updates guidance states that WISH does not recommend the use of face masks where an employee would not usually be expected to wear one.
The advice reads: “Current guidance states that healthcare workers undertaking high risk aerosol generating procedures on Covid-19 patients are required to wear FFP3 respirators, whereas those looking after patients with Covid-19 wear fluid repellent surgical masks.
“Waste industry workers are unlikely to encounter the same level of risk as either of these examples.”
Where an organisation does issue face masks for reasons such as employee reassurance, risk assessments must take into account an overreliance on the equipment to the detriment of more effective controls, the limiting of its use to short periods and the instruction of employees in its use, storage, replacement, and disposal, WISH says.
It is accepted that employees may attend work wearing their own face-coverings such as homemade coverings, snoods and scarves, WISH says. Measures should be taken to ensure these coverings are used hygienically.
WISH says the current government advice is that vulnerable persons should practice stringent social distancing and that extremely vulnerable persons should self-isolate and stay at home.
Should an employee have suspected of confirmed Covid-19 employees should assess whether they employ any vulnerable or extremely vulnerable persons, WISH says.