Work means many different things to many people. Some are working from home whlst some are driving around in vehicles in close contact with colleages.
Here are some tips for staying safe
WORKING SAFELY – REFUSE COLLECTION AND RECYCLING – VEHICLE CAB OCCUPANCY
A discussion took place about how and when refuse collection and recycling services might be able to incrementally return to something resembling “business as usual” within the context of quickly deteriorating COVID-19 developments in recent weeks.
It was reported that consultations had taken place at a small number of local authorities to explore how and when it might be possible to move safely from 2 to 3 persons in a cab. The measures available to local authorities to mitigate the risks associated with a cab occupancy of 3 persons were considered, alongside the growing incidence of positive COVID-19 cases within Wales.
It was noted that reported COVID-19 cases in Wales had increased – in just two months – from less than 150 new cases per week in mid-August to over 4,500 new cases during the preceding seven days. The situation has since deteriorated further with 6,000 new cases and over 50 deaths reported in the last week or so, resulting in a 17 day national firebreak being introduced with effect from Friday 23rd October 2020. In these circumstances, the JCW recommends that the implications of the deteriorating COVID-19 situation within Wales should be kept under review and that any increases in cab occupancy levels are paused until there is evidence of a significant improvement in this situation. At that time, local authorities will engage in meaningful consultations with the trade unions to consider any planned changes in working practices.
In the meantime, all current arrangements involving 3 operatives in a cab should be jointly reviewed by local authorities and trade unions to ensure that risk assessments and mitigation measures are sufficiently robust and whether to implement arrangements involving 2 operatives in a cab.
WORKING SAFELY – AT HOME
Ongoing developments in relation to the significant number of local authority employees who are currently working at home as a result of the COVID-19 emergency have been reviewed within the context that what started as a temporary emergency arrangement is now emerging as a medium and possibly long term measure for a large number of employees.
Homeworking self-assessments Employers have a responsibility to take steps that are reasonably necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees, including in relation to employees working from home. It has been reported that concerns exist about some employees whose home environment has not yet been subject to a homeworking risk assessment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has indicated that it will adopt a flexible and proportionate response to the risks and challenges arising from the current emergency but employers must, nonetheless, consider how best to identify and minimise risk in these challenging and enduring circumstances.
The HSE’s guidance on protecting home workers states that there is no increased risk from Display Screen Equipment (DSE) work for those working from home temporarily, so a full home workstation assessment is not necessarily required at the moment.
However, it is considered to be advisable that local authorities provide homeworkers with guidance and information about the health and safety risks arising from homeworking and ask employees to self-assess risks in general terms, including in relation to DSE issues.
Equipment The requirement for large numbers of employees to start working at home from March 2020 onwards emerged very quickly. Under the circumstances, some of the initial arrangements made to support homeworking were basic and/or inconsistent but it is known that local authorities have since introduced a number of improvements.
However, it has become apparent that some further action is needed to ensure that employees working at home are suitably equipped in terms of furniture and ICT kit which is compatible with the work which needs to be undertaken.
The JCW recommends that, where not already addressed, local authorities should work in local partnership with trade unions to ensure that all employees working at home – are requested to carry out a homeworking self-assessment, with employees being provided with suitable guidance and information to support them to carry out this exercise in a meaningful way; and are provided with suitable furniture and ICT kit, where necessary, following a self-assessment being carried out.
UNISON has been working closely with both Merthyr and RCT Councils to make sure that the employers are able to provide the necessary equipment for its members work safely. If there are any members who are struggling with home working either because of lack of appropriate equipment and or welfare and support, please speak to you manager and or contact your UNISON representatives.
The JCW Trade Union Side has requested that all local authorities in Wales pay employees working at home a homeworking allowance. The Employers Side reported that there is no intention on the part of local authorities in Wales at the present time to make such a payment, for a number of reasons, including the complexities associated with agreeing a suitable sum (every individual’s situation is different in terms of savings and extra costs incurred) and the issue of affordability.
Within this context, the issue of introducing and funding a homeworking allowance is referred to the Workforce Partnership Council (WPC) for consideration on the basis that the membership of the WPC – Welsh Govt Ministers, Trade Unions and Local Authority Employers, Welsh Govt employer representatives – is well placed to consider the feasibility, affordability and strategic relevance of this matter for the devolved public service in Wales