Last reviewed 30 July 2021

The key principles in the Covid Secure guidance for working in or from vehicles provide a practical guide for hauliers and other operators on how to work safely during the current pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Safer Transport Guidance for Operators offers advice and recommendations to people in England who work from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers and those using on-site transit and work vehicles. It should be noted that this guidance is being regularly updated as the situation changes. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own guidance.

Three points need to be made clear at the outset.

  1. Each business will need to translate this information into the specific actions it needs to take depending on the nature of the business including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated.

  2. Nothing indicated here supersedes an operator’s normal obligations relating to health and safety, non-discrimination and equalities legislation.

  3. In applying this guidance, account must be taken of agency workers and contractors as well as the organisation’s own employees.

Safety checklist

The Government has identified six priority actions for businesses to protect their staff and customers, as follows.

  1. Complete a Covid-19 risk assessment. Make sure to update it regularly and share it with the workforce.

  2. Provide adequate ventilation, preferably with a supply of fresh air.

  3. Clean more often. Clean surfaces especially those that are touched. Ask staff and customers/visitors/contractors to use hand sanitisers and wash their hands regularly.

  4. Enable people to check in at your venue, to support NHS Test and Trace, although this is no longer legally required.

  5. Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. Staff members (or anyone in their household) or visitors who have a persistent cough, a high temperature or have lost their sense of taste or smell, should be isolating. Employers are committing an offence if they require someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work other than in the circumstances described in “Self-isolation exceptions”, below.

  6. Keep all workers, contractors and visitors up to date with your safety measures.

Carrying out a coronavirus risk assessment

Given that operators should be aware of the “normal” risks that apply to their business, their focus in the present circumstances must be on the unprecedented problems posed by Covid-19. While recognising that it is impossible to completely eliminate the risks associated with the coronavirus, the assessment must take account of all reasonably practicable steps. The Government has said that this means identifying sensible measures and has emphasised the need to consult staff at this crucial stage in preparing for a return to work. Operators must share the results of their risk assessment with their workforce, if possible by publishing the results on their website (they should certainly do so if they employ more than 50 people).

Risk assessment templates and completed examples are available here.

Note:

The risk assessment should include an up-to-date plan in case there is a Covid-19 outbreak on the firm’s premises. This plan should nominate a single point of contact where possible, who should lead on contacting local Public Health teams (using www.gov.uk/health-protection-team).

Employers must also consider the need for extra support for workers in high-risk groups.

The HSE has provided specific guidance on protecting these groups which can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/protect-people.htm.

Managing risks

Good ventilation is a key control measure. Enclosed spaces are thought to increase the risk of transmission. Fresh air helps to dilute the virus in occupied spaces, so provide adequate ventilation, whether fresh air through doors, windows and vents, or mechanical ventilation.

Maintain regular handwashing, to which the operator must add regular and careful cleaning of premises and vehicles (with particular reference to surfaces that are subject to repeated touching such as handles, fuel pumps and vehicle keys).

Meaningful consultation with employees about returning to the workplace should include a discussion of the timing and phasing of any return and any risk mitigations that have been implemented. It is vital employers engage with workers to ensure they feel safe returning to work, the Government emphasises, and they should not force anyone into an unsafe workplace.

Note:

that Covid secure measures should continue even if employees have recently tested negative or had one or both doses of the vaccine.

In line with the risk assessment, mitigating measures must be introduced to keep the employees as safe as possible.

This could mean:

  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible

  • introducing screens or barriers to separate people

  • increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning

  • avoiding close contact such as bottlenecks, hot desking or equipment sharing

  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using fixed teams or partnering (so each person works with only a few others).

Stay on top of the problem

It will be important to plan for the minimum number of workers needed on the premises and deployed in the field in order to operate safely and effectively. Their health and well-being must be monitored, without forgetting their colleagues who are still working from home.

The organisation must be aware of those of its employees who are considered to be clinically vulnerable individuals, at higher risk of severe illness. Particular attention should also be paid to people who live with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals. See GOV.UK for guidance on those who might be at higher risk of Covid-19.

All things being equal

Operators must communicate appropriately with workers whose protected characteristics might either expose them to a different degree of risk, or might make any potential roles inappropriate or challenging for them.

The need to deal with the specific problems presented by Covid-19 must not divert attention from the legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage, and to assess the specific health and safety risks for new mothers. Expectant mothers, as always, are entitled to suspension on full pay if suitable roles cannot be found.

It is also important to note that any steps taken do not have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others, for example, those with caring responsibilities or those with religious commitments.

On the move

Particular attention needs to be paid to times when sites and depots are at their busiest. Operators should consider the following wherever possible.

  • Staggered arrival and departure times.

  • The provision of additional parking, to avoid crowding, or facilities to help people walk, run or cycle to work.

  • Assigning fixed groups of workers to the same transportation routes where sole travel is not possible.

  • Restricting the use of works vehicles such as minibuses to avoid over-crowding.

  • Scheduling goods deliveries away from rush hours and loading and unloading where possible without involving the driver.

  • Providing sufficient quantities of hand sanitiser/wipes within vehicles to enable workers to clean hands after each delivery.

  • Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for showers, lockers and changing rooms.

  • Avoiding two-person deliveries, even if this means delaying the supply of heavier items. Where this is not possible, keep the same two people together as a team.

  • Reminding drivers of the importance of good ventilation (driving with a window open).

  • Identifying areas where people have to directly pass things to each other (such as job information, spare parts, samples, raw materials) and finding ways to remove direct contact, for example, by using drop-off points or transfer zones.

  • Briefing drivers and temporary staff on a regular basis, communicating new arrangements to customers and providing in-vehicle guides and reminders.

  • Maximising use of electronic paperwork and reviewing procedures to enable safe exchange of paper copies where needed (required transport documents, for example).

  • Encouraging drivers to stay in their vehicles where this does not compromise their safety and existing safe working practice.

Emergency

If an accident or an emergency, such as a fire, occurs the response will over-ride the measures put in place to deal with the current crisis. Attention should be paid to this possibility, ensuring for example that any barriers introduced to promote social distancing do not make it difficult to leave the building in an emergency.

People involved in the provision of assistance to others should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards including washing hands.

Face coverings

Face coverings are not a replacement for other risk control measures. However, they do play a role in protecting others from the larger droplets expelled by the wearer when talking, etc.

Face coverings are no longer mandatory on public transport and in a number of indoor premises although many businesses and transport providers, including Transport for London (TfL), are continuing to recommend their use. A face visor or shield may be worn in addition to a face covering but not instead of one, unless the wearer is exempt.

If employees wish to wear a face covering, they should be encouraged to do so.

The evidence shows that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect people around you from Covid-19. People are now being encouraged to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where there are people they do not normally meet.

Note:

Guidance is available on how to dispose of personal or business waste, including face coverings and PPE, at www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-disposing-of-waste. Paper masks should not be recycled.

Workplace testing

Regular testing  could help identify asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 in the workplace. Regular asymptomatic testing for staff who cannot work from home should occur even if employees have:

  • received a recent negative test result

  • had the vaccine (either 1 or 2 doses).

Where testing on-site is provided it is essential that it is carried out in a safe manner and in an appropriate setting.

The Government has stopped the supply of free rapid lateral flow tests for employers to test employees with no coronavirus symptoms. In future, they must either buy their own tests and set up their own workplace testing or pay an approved provider to provide tests or run a test site for them. Details of these providers can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing . Otherwise employees can pick up free lateral flow tests from pharmacies and test sites for home testing.

Separate advice is available for employers in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland with links to the relevant guidance available at https://www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests.

As previously, anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a free NHS test.

Self-isolation

Workers who have symptoms of coronavirus or workers living in a household or support bubble with someone showing symptoms of coronavirus should self-isolate, stay at home and arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus. Those who may have had contact with a colleague who has been diagnosed with coronavirus may be contacted as part of the test and trace service and in such cases would also need to self-isolate if directed to do so. The fine for breaching self-isolation rules start at £1000. This could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for the most serious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating.

Public Health England (PHE) guidance on self-isolation can be found at GOV.UK. In the case of employees returning from abroad, see How to Self-isolate When You Travel.

Self-isolation exceptions

Given the growing number of people being “pinged” by the NHS app and told to self-isolate because of a contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Government came under increasing pressure to allow an exemption for some essential workers. The Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) at first explained that, under new plans to prevent serious disruption to vital public services, railway signallers and air traffic controllers would be among the critical workers who might be able to leave self-isolation to attend work even if deemed a close contact of someone who has tested positive. Exceptional circumstances are defined, they said, as where there would otherwise be a major detrimental impact on essential services.

However, this position soon came under heavy criticism for lacking clarity and for ignoring the demands of several other sectors. Allowing a limited number of critical workers to leave self-isolation to attend work was not seen as the answer to the problem, especially given the complication of their employer having to contact a relevant Government department to seek permission.

The Government then issued fresh instructions, saying that new testing sites would be allocated for frontline police and fire services to ensure critical staff can continue their vital work. With an initial additional 1200 testing sites in England offering help to supermarket depot staff among others, Ministers said that they wanted to support the most critical parts of the country’s transport and freight systems including ports, airports and haulage firms. The new exemptions would also apply to certain people employed in prisons, waste, defence and veterinary medicine, plus the energy, pharmaceutical, telecoms, chemical, communications, water, space and fish industries.

Daily testing will enable eligible workers who have received alerts from the NHS Covid 19 app, or have been called by NHS Test and Trace and told they are a contact and to isolate, to continue working if they test negative. It should be noted that this process is only intended to run until 16 August 2021, when fully vaccinated close contacts will be exempt from self-isolation anyway. The Government has said that employers and workers taking part in Daily Contact Testing will be provided with guidance about the protocols they must follow but this has not yet been published.