Council clarifies why North Kesteven bin men don’t wear masks

The district council has has moved to clarify why its refuse lorry crews are not wearing face coverings after a number of calls from residents questioning the decision under current national pandemic rules.

Refuse lorry driver Mitch Adcock. EMN-210115-123617001

Government restrictions expect people to wear a mask in all indoor public places, such as shops, and on public transport, unless providing a valid medical reason, but some residents have noticed that refuse crews travel around three in a cab without masks.

Coun Mervyn Head, Executive Board Member for Waste and Environmental Services at North Kesteven District Council insists that this is not down to a “cavalier disregard” for the rules.

He said: “Throughout the ongoing pandemic, North Kesteven District Council has been committed to maintaining waste collection services and is grateful to our dedicated teams.”

On the issue of not wearing coverings or social distancing while on their rounds, Coun Head said: “This is by no means a cavalier disregard to Government guidance, but a fully-considered part of our strict control measures to safeguard our crews, in line with national guidance and industry standards relating to the formation of crew-based work bubbles.

“The council and its partners across Lincolnshire have constantly reviewed and applied national guidance for waste collection operations.”

He said: “In a typical day one vehicle with a crew of three will empty up to 1,200 bins, with each collector handling and moving 500-plus bins. Their gloves are the most essential form of PPE to protect them from any potential hand/surface/hand transmission on the bins. This, along with consistent and effective handwashing (with facilities on board) allows us to manage the risk.

“The national guidance is clear that wearing face protection whilst undertaking collection activities has the potential to bring more risk; with the need to readjust face coverings whilst undertaking manual work increasing the potential of hand to face contamination.

“By maintaining crew bubbles and strict adherence of reporting symptoms, manages and mitigates the risks associated with the lack of social distancing in vehicles.”

He said waste collection services are an integral frontline, highly-visible service that they are proud to deliver. “In good faith some well-meaning residents have questioned us, perceiving the lack of face covering to contravene the ‘Hands, Face, Space guidance,” Coun Head continued.

“We take seriously Government guidance and moreover the protection of our team so as to continue to deliver your waste collection service effectively, efficiently and safely.

“As we all have a personal responsibility in doing all we can to stop the spread of the virus, you may want to clean your bin handles before and after collection, as you might a shopping trolley.”