19 Aug 2020
In the first of our new monthly blogs, one of our Environmental Officers, Eamonn Pidgeon talks about how his role diversified with the arrival of COVID-19 on our shores and what KMK Metals Recycling has been doing to help prevent its spread.
As KMK Metals Recycling was deemed to be an essential service, we remained open and operational during the COVID-19 national lockdown which paralysed most of the country for months. This meant that we had to work quickly to plan and implement strict health and safety protocols in order to protect our staff, their families and the wider community.
Once the cases began to rise back in March, all public waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collection days and most business-to-business collections were postponed, leading to reduced operating hours at both our Tullamore and Kilbeggan facilities.
Straightaway, social distancing measures were put in place, signage was erected reminding employees and essential visitors of the key HSE guidelines and floor markings clearly demonstrated the two-metre spacing requirement. Staff members were divided into pods, with individual work zones, meaning they worked alongside and took breaks with the same people every day. Arrival times were staggered, as were break times to make sure people from different pods had no reason to be in contact.
We increased the size of our canteen to ensure adequate spacing, ensured there was always hand sanitiser and disinfectant at all workstations and busy areas including machinery and forklifts and work zones were fully cleaned at the end of each shift. As the weeks went by, signage was moved or replaced regularly to avoid complacency in the workplace.
Certain staff members were assigned the role of ‘COVID-19 worker representative’ and tasked with talking to each pod daily, reminding them of their responsibilities and correct practices. They would also speak to management about any questions or concerns raised. Part of my new role, was to write a detailed report each morning about the number and breakdown of cases and the latest government advice. This report was circulated to staff via email and added to the notice board.
Three health and safety checks were carried out every day by our Health and Safety Officers at random times to ensure compliance.
Although, most employees need to carry out their work at the plant, many of the office staff members were facilitated to begin working from home. This was a challenging task as new IT equipment was required and work from home workstations. All meetings began to take place online, through Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Additional training, time and resources were provided to ensure KMK Metals Recycling, as an essential business, could remain open during lockdown.
Although Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser was in short supply across the country, we managed to source what we needed every week from trusted suppliers. Our regular cleaners have been working additional hours and we have hired a new cleaning company to do a deep clean every weekend.
While we are fully aware that following these best practices in no way guarantees that we won’t be affected by an outbreak of COVID-19, we do believe that implementing these protocols gives us the best chance possible of dealing with any cases that may emerge.
We would love to help local schools and businesses by sharing our experience and advice to assist companies to reopen safely and students and teachers to get back to education. We are happy to provide a list of suppliers we have used for PPE and to answer any questions or concerns or provide advice.
Here at KMK Metals Recycling, we believe that creating awareness is the key to good practices and hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This virus is still very much with us and numbers are increasing again day by day. It is up to every person, business and organisation to play their part to help stop COVID-19 in its tracks.