What does Victoria’s State of Disaster mean for waste?

What does Victoria’s State of Disaster mean for waste?

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced operational changes to industries under the state’s stage four restrictions. Councils and the waste and recycling industry should continue to provide critical waste services to Victorians.

“Whether it’s our food production, waste collection or supply chain logistics we need some things to continue – but they’ve got do so safely,” Andrews said in a statement on Monday August 3.

Andrews declared a State of Disaster with Melbourne facing additional restrictions under stage 4 COVID-19 lockdown, with stage 3 for the rest of Victoria on Sunday August 2.

Supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, post offices and essential waste services will continue to remain open for business under Victoria’s stage 4 lockdown restrictions covering metropolitan Melbourne from Sunday 2 August and until Sunday 13 September.

The Environment Protection Authority Victoria has confirmed some aspects of the waste and recycling industry are essential services and their facilities remain open.

Private waste collections, such as skip bin hire, are operating for waste such as construction and demolition materials.

“Councils and the waste and recycling industry should continue to provide critical waste services to the public,” EPA states on its website.

“Keeping these facilities open will help to reduce the potential for illegal dumping of waste. Illegal dumping can cost millions of dollars to clean up.”

According to the Authority, for people working in the waste industry, the risk of transmission of coronavirus when handling waste is low and operators should continue using routine hygiene procedures.

“Waste handlers should continue using routine hygiene procedures such as wearing gloves and washing hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap,” EPA stated.

“Like any business, some disruptions may occur from time-to-time due to physical distancing requirements, but they’re not restricted activities and remain operating.”

WHAT SERVICES ARE OPEN IN VICTORIA? 

According to a document published by the state government, the following information regarding waste services was published for public knowledge.

Closed

— Transfer stations closed to the public

Open for on-site work with a COVID Safe Plan

— Operation of energy systems

— Gas services

— Water supply, sewerage and drainage services

— Waste and resource recovery services including collection, treatment and disposal services, and transfer stations to remain open for commercial contractors

— Liquid fuels and refinery services

— Services to support ongoing provision of electricity, gas, water, sewage and waste and recycling services and their maintenance.

Construction of critical and essential infrastructure and services are open to support these projects too.

Andrews confirmed for major construction sites, there will be a limit to the number of people onsite — no more than 25 per cent of the normal workforce onsite.

Small-scale construction will be limited to a maximum of five people onsite.

HOW INDUSTRY CAN SAFELY OPERATE

Andrews announced that businesses that for industries that are permitted to stay open, they will operate under “significantly different conditions”.

He said that all open businesses and services will have until 11:59pm Friday 7 August to enact a COVIDSafe plan focused on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace.

Mandated reductions to the number of workers onsite for a facility, warehouse or distribution centre now apply in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

“These workplaces that are continuing to operate will also have additional requirements including extra PPE, staggering shifts, staggering breaks, health declarations and more support for sick workers to ensure they stay home,” Andrews said in a statement.

“As always, this work will be done in consultation with industry and with unions.”

Due to a curfew from 8pm to 5am everyday until Sunday 13 September, workers in the waste industry who are conducting work duties during these hours require a signed paper from their employer to show authorities when they’re out of home.

“People will have a piece of paper that says, ‘This is where I work, this is what I do’,” Andrews said.

“You carry it with you and then you’re able to demonstrate so there’s not a sense of anxiety or a sense of having to tell your story 17 times. If you’re pulled up by police, you can simply provide that piece of paper and then you would be waved on to go about your business.”

EPA urges industry managing clinical waste to plan for a potential increase

“If you are a transporter of clinical waste and the demand to transport clinical waste is high, please apply for, or to amend, permits to meet this demand,” EPA states on its website.

HOW INDUSTRY IS RESPONDING TO STAGE 4 LOCKDOWN

Alex Serpo, Executive Officer at Victorian Waste Management Association says its a challenging time for the sector and supports the government’s decision to ensure community and workplace safety.

“Workers in waste management are experts in safety, we are confident COVID safe plans, hygiene and social distancing measures are the number one concern for all waste workers. Industry knows the importance of sanitation for community protection,” Serpo says.

He says the Association will continue to work with government to ensure access hours of domestic collection remain extended due to the change in waste volume during stay at home orders across the region.

“There will be lower volumes at commercial residencies due to business closures but certainly the sector will continue to provide essential waste management services throughout the state,” Serpo says.

Workers at Alex Fraser at the introduction of COVID safe measures earlier this year.

Sean McCormick, General Manager Recycling at Alex Fraser says the company was proactive during the first lockdown in Melbourne and put in place changes to ensure safe operations during COVID-19.

Alex Fraser are continuing to recover and recycle priority waste streams into high-spec construction materials to supply rail and road projects with a range of sustainable products that cut costs, cartage, and carbon emissions.

“We are fortunate to be able to continue safely operating at our resource recovery facilities during this time; and we’re grateful for our employees’ and customers’ cooperation with the implementation of our COVID Safe plan,” he says.

McCormick encourages industry to treat COVID Safe controls with the same vigilance as any other critical safety controls in place.

“At Alex Fraser we consider our COVID safe controls as seriously as our Life Saving Rules. We’ve implemented a number of mandatory COVID Safe safety measures on site to keep people safe, including the switch to electronic payments and paperless dockets. Our customers now bring their own PPE and radios to sites,” he says.

“To reduce contact between employees on site we have implemented staggered shifts and separation of key workgroups.

“To ensure increased social distancing we have built additional lunchrooms and amenities blocks on our sites, and reduced the number of seats in all company vehicles to a maximum of two.“

McCormick adds that Alex Fraser’s recycling facilities are generally low contact.

Most customers attending the sites remain in their trucks, and most communication is via UHF radio.

The company also has mandated the use of  face masks, as per government guidelines that came into effect towards the end of last month.

As for construction supply, McCormick says they will continue to work with clients and regulators, and follow government guidelines.

“Our employees have done a stellar job at implementing a wide range of new controls to our workplaces, very quickly,” he says.

“It’s been very reassuring to see how well our COVID Safe controls have been understood, and welcomed by our customers, too.”

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