Recycling staff to get body worn cameras

Staff at Oxfordshire’s seven household waste recycling centres will be using a new piece of kit soon.

They will be joining the growing number of employees in public services such as the police, parking enforcement and trading standards who use body worn cameras as part of their day to day work where they have been found to encourage more positive interactions between staff and customers, even though they are almost always switched off.

Rarely recording

Staff will be able to record conversations with site users in situations where they feel intimidated or subject to abuse. The hope is that the presence of the cameras will discourage interactions from escalating and capture evidence if it does. The technology could also help deal with complaints from members of the public.

Operatives will wear the camera as part of their work uniform. They do not record all the time – they have to be switched on by the worker who will tell the person that they intend to start filing.

It will be very clear when the cameras are recording. They will not be used to film general footage of the site nor types of waste being put into any of the containers – a small screen on the camera shows the limited range and frame of the shot.

There will be signs displayed in each of the county council’s seven recycling sites when the technology starts to be rolled out initially at the Redbridge site. The cameras are also very visible – there will be no covert recording.

Tiny percentage of problem visits

On average per year there are 20 escalated reports of physical and verbal abuse by a member of the public on a member of recycling centre staff in Oxfordshire.

More than 1.25 million people visited the sites in the last year and the proportion of incidents is therefore very low, but is still something that the county council and site operators W&S Recycling and FCC Environment want to reduce.

All incidents are taken very seriously and reported to the police, but it is thought that the presence of the cameras could prevent many incidents from even happening. However, if something does happen the staff are able to collect evidence.

Safety number one priority

County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “The safety of our staff and customers is our number one priority and using this technology will only be an enhancement.

“The vast majority of people only ever intend to bring their waste and dispose of it quickly and if they are unsure of anything they will speak to the staff.

“There have been times, and this is not unique to Oxfordshire, where someone will come along and will seek to intimidate or abuse the staff. This is not acceptable.

“We are being upfront about using the cameras and that alone will help improve many of the interactions on site. Knowing that you could be filmed could for many people be enough to make them think twice before they act.”