Private security workers transporting prisoners to Tayside courts have blasted claims they were issued protective gear to guard against coronavirus.
GeoAmey maintained last week it made personal protective equipment (PPE) available to all staff in contact with those suspected of having Covid-19.
However, the Tele understands that a team of 11 staff in Tayside have access to one suit between them – despite working in close proximity to prisoners and accused individuals in court.
Several people, flanked by GeoAmey officers, have appeared at Dundee Sheriff Court in recent days alleged to have said they had the virus.
At this stage, there is nothing to suggest they harboured Covid-19.
But one worker, speaking to the Tele on condition of anonymity, said the firm’s approach to protecting staff had been inconsistent and was putting officers at risk.
“At one point we were leading prisoners off the van in handcuffs and then told to take them into the courtroom without being cuffed as that would put us at risk,” the security officer said.
“But by that point, we’d already been in close contact with them, much closer than the two-metre space you’re meant to give. We don’t know if people have it or not.
“We don’t have enough kit to go around – we’re putting ourselves at risk.”
Trade union leader, Karen Leonard, said urgent attempts to get assurances from GeoAmey that all staff would be given gear had been fruitless.
The GMB Scotland organiser said: “These workers have rights under the Health & Safety at Work Act and should not be put at risk.
“We made it clear to the employer we will be advising our members not to put themselves in a position of danger, therefore not to move any prisoner they deem not to be safe.
“There has been practically no guidance from the employer especially around contact with confirmed Covid-19 prisoners, self isolation and the cleaning of vehicles.
“The employer’s response was that ‘health and well being of staff is a priority’.”
GeoAmey provides prison transport services in Scotland, England and Wales.
A spokesman for the firm did not respond directly to concerns passed to the Tele.
He said: “Full PPE is available to all officers and issued in line with our internal guidance for dealing with people with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.
“GeoAmey has a fully developed pandemic contingency plan in place to protect the health of our staff members and those prisoners in our care and custody.
“Significant control measures have been taken to ensure custodies with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 are not transported to court sites.
“Our planning remains subject to regular review to continually reflect emerging guidance from both Scottish and UK governments.”
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