Somewhat surprisingly, Angus Council bosses are proposing shift changes for environmental services workers ,against the wishes of the vast majority (98%) of the workers who carry out the jobs and without considering alternative proposals put forward by Unite.
Throughout the United Kingdom twelve workers were killed in the waste management and recycling sector in 2017/18, accounting for nearly 10% of workplace fatalities investigated by the HSE and 1338 injuries were reported in in the same year requiring absences from work of 7 days or more.
In addition in the last five years 12 members of the public have lost their lives in incidents connected with waste management and recycling activities.
Waste management and recycling has horrendous health and safety problems resulting form the way private sector companies and local authorities are managing their operations and this is currently an HSE priority, with a sector plan being developed to reduce work related injury and ill health throughout the sector.
So why are Angus District Council doing this, they say that they have consulted other Councils who have introduced similar working patterns and obviously the main reason is to achieve financial savings. They are not saying what other councils and whether they are a just comparator to Angus District Council a small mainly rural authority, but one where Scottish Hazards mat create more health and safety issues as a result of these changes.
Increased exposure to enforced unsociable hours will lead to increased stress, collecting waste up to 10.00pm at night will increase risk of physical injury and we should not forget the risk of verbal and physical abuse from members of the public.
Morning bin collections and noise from machinery and reversing refuse lorries can provoke adverse reactions from members of the public, often taking their anger out on innocent workers delivering essential public services. Operating for longer periods, earlier in the morning until later at night will not reduce such incidents, only increase them.
Also let’s not forget the risk to backshift workers spending most of their working day carrying out a physically demanding job during short winter days, mostly in the dark.
Angus District Council, did your costings to justify this change you are forcing on your workers include any provision for increased sickness absence costs due increased psychological and physical injury as a result?