HUNDREDS of garbage collectors in Kuala Lumpur are at risk of catching Covid 19 in the course of carrying out their duties, as they are exposed to contamination.
A Kuala Lumpur lawmaker who has been observing them since the government introduced the movement control order (MCO) on March 18 said the workers had not been told to separate the waste they collect, especially hazardous waste.
“I am no expert, but even I know that the disposal of the surgical and face masks should be separated from the normal domestic waste," said Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng.
He said when he approached the waste contractors in his area and asked why they were not separating the face masks into a different bin, the workers merely shrugged their shoulders.
“Considering the situation now, used face masks are considered hazardous waste and hence need to be separated in a more controlled and hygienic manner to contain the outbreak," Lim said.
“Without proper standard operating procedure (SOP), the workers' health are at risk," he said.
Lim urged the Environment Minister and the Housing and Local Government Minister to urgently put in place a proper SOP to safeguard the hundreds of people in this line of work.
“You guys need to get your act straight as their lives are in your hands," he said.
For the record, cleaning services are considered essential services under the MCO. In Kuala Lumpur, waste contractor Alam Flora is the appointed contractor to carry out cleaning works.
The service comes under the purview of the Housing and Local Government Ministry.
Not everyone agrees with Lim's assessment, however.
Professor Dr G. Jayakumar, professor of occupational health at the Faculty of Medicine in Melaka Manipal Medical College, said stating that cleaning contractors risked contaminated from the discarded face masks was pushing it a bit far.
“I agree that these workers are 'high risk' not just now with the Covid 19, but what they need more than anything is proper gear.
“From the gloves, working boots, and attire to carry out their duties. This needs to be addressed more than anything," he said.
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