WISH reports no Covid-19 outbreaks in waste sector workplaces

The Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) has found that no workplace outbreaks have taken place in the sector as a result of the handling of waste in the latest safety guidance published.

After obtaining information from a wide range of both private and public sources, WISH found that any cases of staff members testing positive for Covid-19 were not related to their work.

An image of black bin bagsThis follows the Environmental Services Association (ESA) calling on the government to designate waste service staff as “key workers”.

WISH is still promoting strict guidance on social distancing in the workplace to reduce any risk of a potential outbreak, in the knowledge that this would have damaging effects on carrying out essential waste services.

There have been no significant changes in the guidelines since the previous update since the original guidance was finalised in April.

WISH’s safety guidance on Covid-19 details the procedures that companies should follow in the event of an outbreak and how to prevent one from happening.

It debunks myths surrounding how the virus spreads on materials that staff might be handling. This suggests that the previous government guidance on how the public who have tested positive should dispose of their waste, has been successful.

WISH’s guidance also highlights what to do if an RPE (respiratory protective equipment) shortage comes about. The guidance states: “While the situation has improved since the early stages of the pandemic, some organisations are still reporting shortages of specific types of RPE, and shortages may occur again in the future.

“Where alternative types and standards of RPE are being considered to address shortages employers should ensure the level of protection provided remains adequate.”

WISH Chair Chris Jones said: “The earlier versions of INFO were prepared during the course of the first lockdown with considerable input from across the sector.

“Given that there were no reported outbreaks of Covid-19 in waste operations in 2020 we believe that the principles that were developed for the first lockdown, that have been successful, and that have been then further developed and improved in the intervening time, should be just as applicable to the current lockdown.”

WISH forums have been running in the UK since 2009 and it also hosts bi-annual conferences to explore issues in the waste industry.

Its website was launched in 2017 to create a space for issuing health and safety guidance to both local authorities and businesses.

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