Wakefield police staff left 'working in fear' over lack of social distancing at call centre

West Yorkshire Police staff have been ‘working in fear’ due to a lack of social distancing measures in place at one of the force’s emergency call centres, according to a staff member.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 1:15 pm
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 1:15 pm

The emergency call handler says staff dealing with 999 calls during the coronavirus pandemic are unable to do so at a safe distance from each other as they work around the clock in cramped conditions.

The worker told the Express that staff are desperate for management to make urgent arrangements to ensure safer social distancing at the call centre on Laburnum Road, Wakefield.

Now the force has admitted steps were not taken to allow effective social distancing and it is taking action to address the concerns raised.

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West Yorkshire Police staff have been working in fear due to a lack of social distancing measures in place at one of the forces emergency call centres, according to a staff member.

The source said: “The police are making the enforcement of social distancing among the public a priority.

“But we are not obeying the rules that we are enforcing – it feels so hypocritical.

“People are supposed to be keeping at least two metres apart but, due to no fault of our own, we are working at desks no more than a metre away from other. There are too many of us sat too close together.

“We feel frightened, very uncomfortable and unsafe while doing our work trying to protect the public.”

The source said managers had made some attempts for staff to work at a safe distance from each other but the measures were impractical because of the number of workers involved in tackling the crisis.

According to the source, around 120 members of staff are working at the centre across three shifts throughout the day.

“We are hot-desking so you sit at whatever desk is available each shift. We have been told we are responsible for sanitising our own desks.

“They are saying there is not enough room, that they are trying to make arrangements for us but that it is a slow process.

“Our biggest fear is if someone tests positive for coronavirus and the pressure it could place the call handling system.”

The health and safety of officers and staff is “really important” to the force, a West Yorkshire Police spokesman said as he acknowledged concerns about working conditions in its Wakefield call centre.

He said: “Our call centre staff provide an essential service and while distancing within the call centre may have been less than two metres initially, we acted on revised guidance from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and have moved call centre staff further apart to ensure the two metres is observed. Some have been moved to other locations to enable this to happen.

“We continue to follow guidance from the NPCC and Public Health England (PHE) and to engage with staff associations to address their members’ concerns.”

Rachel Dix, regional organiser of the GMB union, said: “Our GMB reps have been proactive in raising concerns on behalf of employees, especially around social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) provisions. All parties are open to ideas to improve working conditions further."