Concern over social distancing measures in the waiting room of platform 1, Exeter St. Davids

Report Number: 02748
February 2021

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A reporter has raised a health and safety concern about the arrangements for social distancing in the waiting room on platform 1, Exeter St. Davids.

Firstly, the reporter acknowledges and appreciates the measures that are already in place to enable social distancing and ensure staff are safe. However, in the reporter’s own experience there are practical limitations to these arrangements. Therefore, this waiting room is exceeding its maximum capacity for social distancing (despite signage stating what the maximum number is).

The reporter describes that this waiting room it is particularly difficult to maintain social distancing due to its limited space and it being used as an area for customers, staff (at workstations) and a booking on point. It is also used by contractors who sign in with a member of staff at these workstations.

The reporter is concerned that without the ability to adequately socially distance, staff could potentially catch and spread Covid-19. Therefore, the reporter asks if Great Western Railway could look into options to reduce the actual numbers of people in the waiting room, some suggestions are below:

  • Repurpose the customer lounge part of this waiting room for staff use only?
  • Due to the limited available accommodation at the station, explore alternative options such as hiring a portable cabin to use either for customers or staff?
  • Reduce staffing levels at Exeter St. Davids?


Firstly, GWR would like to thank the reporter for raising these concerns.

These are clearly difficult times for our colleagues and the wider community. GWR is mindful of the anxiety that Covid-19 creates and that some colleagues maybe affected more than others.

The rail industry is seen by the UK Government as an essential service and although services have been reduced maintaining a rail service for key workers is paramount. In response to the pandemic Covid-19 GWR has introduced a number of measures across the business.

There is still a requirement for GWR to provide customer service to customers using waiting rooms providing GWR use COVID secure guidance and ensure a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is place.

GWR have concluded through the risk assessment that the waiting rooms at Exeter St Davids have all current controls measures in place and the risk is reduced to ALARP under the present operating conditions.

In the main the control measures are focussed on ensuring that, where possible:

  • Identification of alternative or safer methods of work where social distancing can be maintained
  • Identification of alternative or safer methods of work where social distancing is not possible
  • Ensuring that workplaces and public areas are safe - including waiting rooms, booking on points and welfare facilities
  • Ensuring that suitable cleaning regimes are in place
  • Ensuring that adequate hand washing facilities (or the provision of hand sanitiser with min 60% alcohol content) and
  • Identifying and requirements for PPE and/or Covid equipment required for specified tasks.

A key activity for GWR customer facing colleagues is providing great customer experience and providing waiting rooms on station platforms.

The waiting room on Platform 1 is a shared facility with one side being for customer use and the other for the colleague use, with the 2 sides being separated by a full-length counter and installed Perspex screen to a height of around 2m.

Waiting Rooms are being fogged with Zoono every 28 days and an enhanced cleaning regime is in place which includes wiping down touch points and surfaces with anti-viral products.

As it can be seen in the images below there is adequate natural and mechanical ventilation and robust social distancing measures in place within the waiting room on Platform 1. On other platforms colleagues have the option to propping doors open to provide ventilation. Customers using the waiting rooms are required to use face coverings and colleagues on the staff side are encouraged to wear face coverings, although GWR do recognise this is not always possible.

On platform 1 access to the staff side can be controlled via a keypad entry system and the occupier can control access by engaging the internal door latch. There are usually 2 colleagues required to work within this area and a maximum of 3 colleagues allowed, the 3 person being either a contractor signing in or a colleague booking on duty. Alternative arrangements have been made to reduce the requirement for any other person needing to enter this area. As a result of this report Station Management are reviewing the maximum occupancy signage and will seek to make these clearer where possible.

The Station is currently operating with the required number of colleagues and we have taken steps to keep numbers to a minimum during shift change / handover periods.

Platform 1 shared waiting room:

waiting room

waiting room

In regards to arrangements in place for the other shared waiting rooms on Platform 3 / 4 and 5 / 6, whilst we believe the Covid secure measures GWR have put in place have reduced the risk to ALARP, colleagues have access to alternative facilities available on these platforms, so they are not required to base themselves in the staff side of the customer lounge.

Whilst there are significantly fewer members of the public travelling and using the railway, we acknowledge that we are reliant on our customer facing colleagues to encourage our customers to follow the Government guidance on social distancing. We ask our colleagues to always be mindful of their conflict awareness training, undertake a dynamic risk assessment, challenge with kindness where necessary, and remove themselves from any dangerous situation before it escalates. Local Station Management teams try to support Colleagues at every opportunity.


  • Contractors will no longer use the customer lounge side of the waiting room on platform 1 to sign in but will be required sign in on the staff side to which the duty has full access control.
  • Station management are undertaking a review of current maximum occupancy signage across the station.