By Steve Bridges, Health and Safety Officer
Recently I have been absent from work virtually through the whole of January, it was important for me to hit the ground running on my return to work. One of the first tasks I carried out was to make a request for hand sanitizers and disposable gloves from MyERP. I also observed that I would have to install more wall mounted foaming hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the main library.
It took about a week and a half for me to realise that I had not received my order, so I got in touch with the supplier by phone and inquired regarding my order. The supplier informed me that they were out of stock, but they would check their warehouse in Belgium, and I was told they were out of stock!
I contacted my team manager to informed her of the situation and asked if I should try to source from other suppliers and was told to do whatever I could! I subsequently placed orders with various suppliers in the hope that I might receive something from someone.
Approximately a week later one of my requests was fulfilled; I received 3 boxes of nitrile gloves and some containers open hand sanitizers with moisturizers, however, these were non–alcohol based sanitizers! Approximately 2 weeks later I received half of another order and this was for Purell hand sanitizer. I have since been informed by suppliers that all orders are ‘Held’ as they do not consider them to be a priority in the fight against Covid19, I would receive an email when stocks were available again!
I write this to highlight just how much this situation has impacted industries we probably never gave a thought to, until now and what affects shortages would have!
My understanding on Social Distancing was that this was a measure introduced to try to minimise the amount of people occupying the same space to reduce risks of spreading this virus, however, as the University began shutting down buildings, University Cleaning Staff were told to go the other buildings that were still open. This meant that Cleaners from Hawthorns, Senate House, Sports Centre, and other places were sent to the Arts and Social Sciences Library. This resulted in 16 Cleaners congregating in a space that was normally filled by 4! One Cleaner stood in tears telling me about the fear and the stress she was feeling about this turn of events. The only advice I could give was “Focus on each task you have to do and keep going through the jobs you do to keep your thoughts in place”. I could only be as sensitive as I could. I also found evidence of doubling up on Cleaning Staff in other buildings. In my opinion, Cleaning Staff that were, for want of a better expression ‘surplus to requirements’ should have been sent home as were other University staff, and not left hanging around, as this was increasing worry for some.
Key Worker Safety
I have made one or two trips to the University to try to find out what the facts were re: PPE for Keyworkers. A way to gain information was to be there and observe. On the occasions that I was able to see University Security staff they were passing me as they drove around the campus. Although none of them were wearing Face Masks, I have been assured by Guy Worrall, Simon Ramsden and Gary Vine that they employ a robust regime which involves Daily Team Briefs in larger open areas, face masks, hand sanitizers and wiping down touch surfaces and other measures to comply with social distancing. Agency Staff have also been offered face masks and other hygiene products. I am satisfied from the response I received from Guy Worrall and his team that they are making every effort to minimise any risks.
As part of our efforts to show solidarity to other Unions I have been emailing other Unions to ask their General Secretaries if they are aware of the fact that there are still shop workers with no PPE such as masks and gloves, who are assisting customers at self-check-out tills and replenishing shelves in supermarkets ,
Below is a copy of a reply I received from USDAW, the shop workers union.
We will continue to offer support wherever we can, and I am always interested to hear from any member on any H&S concerns they may have. Keep talking and stay well and stay safe.
Unison Branch H&S Officer.
Thank you for your email to our GS/DGS & President sharing your concerns of our members safety in shops in the Bristol area .
We have been doing everything possible in the most challenging circumstances to protect our members . We are in daily dialogue with all the employers we have agreements with, as well as retail organisations such as the British Retail consortium and the Association of convenience stores, all with the primary focus of the health and safety of our members as well as protecting their other rights at work .
Included in this is of course the safety of the shopping public , you may have seen some of the measures already in place in food supermarkets such as managed queuing , floor markings for shopping flow and social distancing at checkouts . We are of course reliant of the public playing their part which is probably the most challenging aspect of social distancing in supermarkets .
With regards to PPE this is being rolled out as quickly as possible with screens as an example fitted in checkout areas . We continue to work with employers to ensure all of this is as effective as possible, if you have any examples of specific breaches of health and safety please let me know and I will alert the relevant official .
Thank you for you concern for our members, it really demonstrates the solidarity we are seeing in the movement right across every key worker sector and workplace .
Kind regards and stay safe