The government has produced guidance to help ensure safety during the pandemic. The guides cover a range of workplaces including those working in or from a vehicle such as couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and field forces.
They do not replace existing health and safety duties, but they should be considered by employers when assessing risk and implementing control measures. As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety.
Thinking About and Managing Risk
Employers must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment (which should be shared with employees after consultation) and take preventative measures. That means working through steps in the guide in order i.e. increasing hand washing/surface cleaning, making every reasonable effort to work from home where possible and where not possible comply with social distancing (where that is not possible and the activity needs to continue, further actions are listed). Further mitigations include increasing cleaning, reducing activity time, using screens, using fixed teams and avoiding face to face working. If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then employers will need to assess whether the activity can safely proceed. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe environment. The recommendations in the rest of the guide are ones employers should consider as they go through this process. They can also consider any sector specific advice e.g. from trade associations.
Who should go to work
Everyone should work from home, unless they cannot work from home. Employers should consider who needs to go to work as well as how to protect those at higher risk. The guide sets out steps to consider including planning for minimum numbers and the monitoring of staff and protecting those at higher risk.
Social distancing at work
The guide sets out detailed actions to maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible, including while arriving at and departing from work, while moving around buildings, worksites and destinations, while in vehicles and while carrying out deliveries or collections. It is acknowledged that it will not always be possible to keep a distance of 2m inside vehicles therefore businesses should consider ways to reduce risk when the guidelines cannot be followed in full including further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning, reducing activity time, use of screens or barriers, avoiding face to face working and reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using fixed teams or partnering. Social distancing applies to not just the vehicle but depots, break rooms and anywhere drivers congregate outside of the vehicle.
Managing your customers, visitors and contractors
The guide aims to minimise the contact risk resulting from people in vehicles and sets out steps to achieve this e.g. revising schedules to reduce interaction and overlap between people, avoiding physical contact when handling goods, ensuring delivery and receipt confirmation can be made contactless, preparing for goods to be dropped off to a previously agreed area to avoid transmission and maintaining a record of all visitors if this is practical.
Cleaning and sanitising the workplace
The guide considers how to keep vehicles clean and prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces; how to help everyone keep good hygiene through the working day; how to minimise the risk of transmission in changing rooms and showers; and how to reduce transmission through contact with objects that come into vehicles.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings
Where workers are already using PPE to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, they should continue to do so- additional PPE beyond what is usually worn is not beneficial. Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 in most circumstances. Wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one.
Managing your workforce
The guide advises on how to change the way work is organised to create distinct groups and reduce the number of contacts each worker has including the use of shift patterns and working groups and during work related travel. It deals with communications and training, including when returning to work, and ongoing communications and signage to make sure all are kept up to date with safety measures.
Inbound and outbound goods
The guide considers how to maintain social distancing and avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave the site especially in high volume situations, for example in distribution centres and dispatch areas. Measures include revising pick-up and drop-off collection points, minimising unnecessary contact at gatehouse security and warehouses, where safe to do so having single workers load or unload vehicles, enabling drivers to access welfare facilities when required and encouraging drivers to stay in their vehicles where this does not compromise their safety and existing safe working practice such as preventing drive-aways.
Where HSE identifies employers who are not complying with guidance to control public health risks, they will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks including enforcement.