Refuse workers 'sweltering' inside lorries with no conditioning

The high temperatures have highlighted issues with PPE equipment which workers find too hot to work in.

Glasgow refuse workers ‘sweltering’ inside lorries with no conditioning LDRS

Glasgow’s refuse workers claim they are sweltering inside bin lorries with no air conditioning as the city continues to bask in the sunshine. 

With Scotland experiencing a heatwave that has seen record temperatures in some parts of the country, workers have also raised concerns about heavy PPE equipment which they say is too hot to work in. 

The council has told workers they will be providing fans for some vehicles, but  GMB trade union convenor Chris Mitchell is now calling for more measures to be taken to protect drivers and manual labourers suffering from fatigue and muscle cramps.

This has included suggestions that the council commit to providing sun hats to protect the back of workers’ necks, as well as delivering sunscreen and water bottles to drivers collecting refuse.

The local authority agreed that hot spells of weather can lead to challenging working conditions but said no reports of staff feeling unwell as a result have been made to them.

Hats with neck coverings have previously been provided, but staff indicated they preferred to use their own headwear. Fans have also been installed in vehicles where necessary.

Chris Mitchell said: “We have an ageing fleet and ageing staff and they don’t have proper air conditioning in them. Some of the vehicles were sitting at nearly 34 degrees yesterday.

“Heat stress is a big thing particularly for drivers, who are suffering from fatigue and muscle cramps. The council says we can take more regular breaks but if you are jumping out into the heat and then coming back into somewhere that’s even warmer – it’s hard to initiate that.

“The clothing that we use isn’t adequate – it is alright for the winter – but it is certainly not good for the summer because it is quite thick so the PPE also has a detrimental effect on how we carry out our duties.

“We are not used to this intense heat. It was only this morning that we were informed by the council that they were going to buy fans which can be installed in the vehicles after two weeks of campaigning.

“The council has an obligation to provide hats and a cover for the back of your neck to stop you from getting sunburnt, but as far as I am aware, there are no hats on order.

“The council is also supposed to bring bottles of water out to the workers on site but this hasn’t happened either and staff are having to drive back to the depot to keep hydrated.”

The GMB ran a water campaign two years ago and bought thousands of water bottles out of their own branch funds to keep their members hydrated. 

And Mr Mitchell said that if the hot weather continues branch 40 members might have to do the same again.

He added: “We get this sort of weather maybe two or three weeks every year if we are lucky but these workers are pulling heavy bins and sweeping streets .

“It’s a heavy manual labour task. They don’t have the ability to sit in an office with a fan. They are right in the sun. 

“It’s like running a marathon with a bin tied to you in 29 degree heat. We need to provide sunscreen, hats, and different PPE during the winter and summer months.

“People’s health is at risk because of this.”

Glasgow City Council is urging staff to take regular breaks, stay hydrated and keep themselves covered with protective clothing.

A spokesman said: “The recent hot spell has been a challenge to working conditions but thankfully we have not received any reports of staff feeling unwell as a result of the weather.

“Various measures are in place to help staff deal with the sun and the heat and staff are briefed on what to do.

“Staff are urged to take regular breaks, keep themselves covered with clothing as far as possible and stay hydrated, with water freely available at our depots and other council buildings.

“Hats with neck coverings have previously been provided, but staff indicated they preferred their own headwear. Fans have been installed in vehicles where necessary.

“We are currently in the process of modernising our fleet, which will help to ensure air conditioning is available in all vehicles in future, and GMB is involved in an on-going trial on the use of lighter PPE clothing over summer.

“We can’t provide sun cream due to the risk of potential allergic reactions from individual staff members.”

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