Four porters at Inverness’ Raigmore Hospital were injured carrying out work involving clinical waste, the GMB union has said. The union has submitted a collective grievance to NHS Highland about the waste tasks and has advised its members not to do the work from Friday.
The GMB said the work was posed a “heightened risk to the health, safety and welfare” of hospital staff.
NHS Highland said it regarded the safety of its employees “as paramount”.
Porters have always handled clinical waste, but have had more of a role in this work due to a Scotland-wide contingency plan put in place following the collapse of clinical waste firm Healthcare Environmental Services (HES).
Liz Gordon, GMB regional officer, said there had been no consultation on changes to porters’ job descriptions, and said the work relate to the HES situation was behind its grievance.
She said: “I have advised members not to undertake the clinical waste additional tasks from the 11 January from 08:00.”
The health board said its employees’ work had been risk assessed and “safe systems of work” had been identified.
A spokeswoman said: “Where appropriate protective equipment has been issued and made available to our porters.
“NHS Highland believes that those processes when followed should ensure that nobody is at risk.”
She said the incidents involving injuries were being investigated, and the health board was due to meet with the GMB next week to address the union’s concerns.
However, one matter does stand out. That the health board said its employees’ work had been risk assessed and “safe systems of work” had been identified. “Where appropriate protective equipment has been issued and made available to our porters.”
That seems fine, but I wonder if risk assessment an safe systems of work were considered only in response to this particular challenge and if without that challenge of industrial action it would have happened at all? That of course would be a totally unacceptable situation.