In times like these we remember just how connected we all are, and how much we depend on each other. The Covid-19 crisis has shown that, despite our differences, most of us want others to be safe and are happy to do our bit. It has also shown how much we value the institutions and professionals who are working so hard to protect us.

At Unchecked, we think our public bodies do amazing work keeping us safe in every area of life – looking out for our health, for our rights at work, for the safety of our families and for our natural environment. This web of public protectors, often unseen, are our country’s immune system.

We’re speaking to public protectors about the vital work they do, and the changes they’re seeing as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Photo of Rob Couch, environmental health advisor

Richard Williams is Senior Practitioner in the Technical Services Section at Worcestershire Regulatory Services.

“I have a team of 9 people that specialise in industrial pollution control, air pollution, contaminated land, and advising on the environmental impacts encountered though the planning and development control system.”

“The functions we undertake are rather unglamorous but they’re critical in safeguarding the public. Without the regulation we undertake, heavy industries would be free to pollute the air, water and ground around us. There would be no data on local air quality to identify the areas where it is a problem and how many people are exposed to it. Houses would be built on inhospitable land next to noisy motorways and industry, or on ground poisoned with industrial chemicals.

“Our work is critical in making sure people have safe places to live for generations to come.”

“This may all sound extreme – but over the years Environmental Health pollution control teams have become responsible for all of these important and complex areas. Our work is critical in making sure people have safe places to live for generations to come. Investment in services like this is crucial if we want this important work to continue in the future.

“A lot of the work we do is long-term and might go unnoticed by the general public. Often our work only comes to the fore when problems arise or when media shines a light on a particular issue, like the role of air pollution in the transmission of Covid-19.”

Covid-19 has seen a change in the focus of some of the work that Richard’s team carries out.

“Many companies in the manufacturing industry have been severely affected by the lockdown so work in that area has slowed down – but our work has got busier in other areas. We’re helping crematoriums to lessen air pollution as they receive higher than normal demand. We’re also looking at property and infrastructure developers who are preparing planning applications to be submitted once lockdown is relaxed.”

Richard hopes that as we come out of the Covid-19 crisis, there can be some positive changes for people and the environment.

“Companies have had to adapt pretty quickly to new ways of working due to the lockdown and I think that old conventions around the workplace will change for the better as a consequence. We will see more people working from home, reducing the number of road vehicles on our roads and creating less pollution. This is something that companies should actively support.

“Transportation has seen a mini revolution with more people cycling and walking for leisure and commuting. More investment in ambitious cycling infrastructure and public transport after the crisis could boost public health and wellbeing.”

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