CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – As those affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue to increase, an environmental advocacy group has urged national and local governments, including private service companies, to provide ample protection to people collecting wastes generated due to the handling of the infection.
“It’s common knowledge that workers who handle, collect and dispose of waste, especially unsorted discards that may contain hazardous and infectious waste, are often at serious risk of being exposed to germs, pathogens, sharps, dust, and harmful chemicals,” said Jove Benosa, EcoWaste Coalition zero-waste campaigner, in a statement released to the media Monday (March 16).
Despite the risks involved, Benosa said waste worker unhesitatingly do their job even without any basic personal protective equipment such as safety gloves, hats, shoes, and face masks.
It’s not unusual for them to sort discarded materials to retrieve recyclable items that they can sell to junk shops for added income, he said.
“Considering the increased disposal of potentially infectious waste such as used face masks and tissues during the Covid-10 outbreak, which are often thrown along with non-hazardous household waste, we thought it would be necessary for concerned [national government agencies and local government units] to also think about the occupational safety and health of our waste workers in their action plans in response to the situation,” Benosa said.
For the health and safety of waste workers, the EcoWaste Coalition called for strict compliance to waste segregation at source under Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Sold Waste Management Act.
“The ‘no segregation, no collection’ rule should be strictly enforced,” he said.
The group has emphasized the importance of providing waste workers with the right set of PPE, and for them to be provided with essential education and training to minimize exposure to biological, chemical and physical hazards linked to their occupation.
EcoWaste has also suggested to the government the inclusion of waste workers among those who should benefit from hazard pay as proposed by legislators.
“We believe that waste workers are entitled to hazard pay, especially this period of Covid-19 pandemic. We hope the public and private sectors will duly consider giving them additional compensation in recognition of their high-risk work during these difficult times,” Benosa said. (davaotoday.com)