During coronavirus, waste collection workers demand hazard pay, more protections in Pittsburgh

The city of Pittsburgh says it is taking all necessary precautions to protect refuse workers

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Some essential employees helping keep communities safe during the coronavirus outbreak do not feel as though they are being adequately protected – or compensated – for the tasks they are performing.

On Wednesday, waste collection workers in Pittsburgh refused collection and demanded hazard pay, alleging their virus exposure was heightened due to lack of protective equipment, according to a local NBC affiliate WPXI.

As previously reported by FOX Business, while the waste management industry has made some headway with both the federal government and state governments, there are some areas of concern that remain for workers, including obtaining personal protective equipment – like gloves – necessary for the disposal of regulated medical waste.

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The city released a statement in response to Wednesday’s events, saying it is taking “all precautions to protect refuse workers.” The city says trucks are cleaned regularly, workers are provided with protective gloves and glasses and daily health screenings are being conducted.

“Environmental Services workers are on the front lines of the city’s pandemic response and are performing a great public service to their fellow residents,” Mayor William Peduto said in a statement.

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Fear could have been sparked after the wife of a refuse worker reported a presumptive positive case on Tuesday evening.

Workers were sent home with pay and reportedly told to report back on Thursday when collection would resume.

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But waste management is a crucial piece of the puzzle to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Brandon Wright, vice president of communications at the National Waste & Recycling Association, told FOX Business that history has shown when waste collection efforts have ceased, disease and illness have spread most easily. Wright also pointed out that there is a segment of the industry that collects regulated medical waste from hospitals and other health care facilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, improper disposal of some types of waste – like medical – can cause everything from parasitic infections to HIV/AIDS and lung infections.

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