There has been a “worrying rise” in the levels of aggression shown to waste staff, with incidents up 50% in some areas, speakers at the Waste and Recycling During the Coronavirus Pandemic webinar have said.
Speakers at the seventh webinar in the series yesterday (26 January) said aggression towards staff has been rising in recent weeks, in stark contrast to the first lockdown last year.
They also referred to the impact of Covid-19, stating that community transmission of it has caused disruption to waste services.
Chris Jones, chairman at the WISH forum, spoke of infection rates in the sector and emerging trends.
Mr Jones explained: “The transition to lockdown three was seamless, as companies already had things in place from the first lockdown. What has made a difference is transmission in the community and the absence of work that’s resulted.”
He explained that transmission within cabs isn’t a “significant issue”, but that infection rates are associated to communities.
“Infection rates in the sector are dominated by the community you are in. We all have people off with Covid and self isolating, but rates across the industry, are more to do with where you live rather than with the sector.”
Mr Jones added that there has also been a “worrying trend” emerging around increased aggression towards waste staff.
He continued: “In some areas we have had reports of rates doubling, in other areas its between 20% and 40% higher, and that’s a serious concern. It’s a bit hard to know why suddenly people are being abusive to staff. I suspect it rises due to stress and tension of the country, rather than the waste industry itself.”
Victoria Burrell, waste strategy team manager for Durham and North East representative for Larac, added that while service delivery has been “stressful” at times, councils continue to adapt and maintain a workforce.
Ms Burrell urged “credit where it is due” to frontline refuse workers, as behaviour from the public is starting to transition for the worse.
Ms Burrell explained: “In the first lockdown, the public appreciated the services they were getting and fully recognised frontline workers. As time has gone on, it is sad to say its reverted back to their normal day job that is expected of them.
“Workers do unfortunately suffer from different kinds of abuse relating to a blocked car in the street, or something that’s triggered the public to become antagonistic towards waste crews. I’d certainly think the shift has moved from the focus of the first pandemic. We are starting to see them taken for granted again.”
Paul Stokes, head of safety, health, environment and quality at FCC Environment added that people’s perception of RCVs clogging up roads, and waste staff on the streets, generally has “turned on its head” in the current lockdown.
“The problem we face now is people’s fatigue of complying to the controls in place”
He said that while the transition for waste services into the third lockdown was easy, it is now a matter of people’s behaviour that presents the main challenge.
“The problem we face now is people’s fatigue of complying to the controls in place, being locked up and the varying messages that come from the government and media.
“They are at the end of their tether, which we have to compensate for that and understand that. It is tough out there, and our case is that there is a great deal for balance people have to have. They have to treat people the way they wants to be treated, and look after each other”.
Source: letsrecycle.com Waste Managment