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Bin men “terrified” of coronavirus exposure

Birmingham | Coronavirus | Published:

Birmingham bin men are “terrified” of spreading coronavirus to their families and are pleading for the public to contain their waste properly.

A refuse worker has said teams in Birmingham are being faced with contents of bin bags spilling out onto the ground and increased waste due to the closure of recycling centres.

Refuse workers have so far not been issued with face masks, and believe they are being put at risk particularly while sitting close together on the bin lorry where social distancing “is not possible”.

A Birmingham binman, who did not want to be named, estimated there are around 600 refuse workers employed in the city.

He said: “Yes we are concerned. Most are family men and terrified of taking this home to their partners and children.

“We are trying to carry on, business as usual, but we have in the region of 30 employees currently self-isolating so we are stretched.

“We have black bags and their contents split open all over the floor and bins overflowing with all sorts spewing out the top.

“On top of this the recycling centres are now closed and many members of the public think it’s OK to dump half the contents of their house by the bins.

“We have no face masks, [they are] supposed to be coming Tuesday, and very limited amounts of hand gel.

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“We are in a confined cab whilst travelling around so [it’s] impossible to adhere to the 2m guideline.

“[The council’s health director] is saying gloves will protect you but they won’t if you’ve got four blokes in a cab coughing.”

A spokesman for the GMB union which represents refuse workers said: “We’ve had a number of concerns raised by pour members working on the bins about not being given the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The fact is that each and every day, they are turning out to provide a vital front line service. They are having to travel around the city with their crews in close proximity.

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“This raises serious concerns about social distancing. GMB believes that they need face masks to ensure that this can be done safely and with minimal risks.

“When they come into contact with people’s rubbish, they need gloves and access top hand sanitizer. This shouldn’t be an issue, but they are experiencing problems even with this.

“Our members working on the bins are key workers and we need to ensure they can do their jobs safely.

“GMB will continue to push the council to make sure this is the case.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: “We are aware of concerns and have spoken to our staff and unions and taken advice from public health colleagues.

“There is a national shortage of masks, however the protective gear worn by our bin crews is adequate as they are not in regular face-to-face contact with residents.

“Like all responsible employers we are asking anyone with symptoms to stay away from work as per the national government and NHS guidance.

“We would ask that residents also play their part in helping keep our crews safe, and any residents who have had COIVID-19 or have displayed symptoms should follow government guidance to tie and double-bag their waste – and wait 72-hours before disposing of it in their household bin.”

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