Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March, we’ve all been adjusting to immense changes in how we live and work. We’ve been looking at how we can support our members by sharing learning and good practice across the member community. We ran a webinar on 30 April to share intelligence on what’s been reported to CIRAS and stories of how our members have been rising to the challenges of the pandemic.
Around 40 participants attended our webinar, where we shared some great stories of how CIRAS members are working to keep their staff and customers safe and well. Many examples of good practice are commonly implemented – but there are also innovative things happening which might spark some fresh ideas.
Many transport workers are out there keeping the country running and social distancing measures, where these are possible, are a way that staff can protect each other from infection – in depots, on worksites and travelling to and from work.
Some members are re-organising mess rooms to enable the two-metre rule to be observed and changing protocols so confined spaces are checked before entering. Some members have introduced COVID-19 champions to monitor and enforce social distancing rules, and stricter rules limiting visitors are helping keep numbers on site down. SPL and Network Rail have co-produced a short video showing how to maintain social distancing: https://www.tracksafetyalliance.co.uk/videos/spl-safe-work-procedure-video/s7813/
Transport operators are also exploring how to protect passengers from infection. For example, Nottingham Trams has put posters on its trams to help passengers select the safest seats (see main image).
It’s just as important to protect staff in transit and some members are permitting staff to use their own vehicles and travel directly to site without congregating at a depot beforehand. Network Rail’s road fleet team collaborated with Hitachi to create a detachable protective screen for use inside vehicles and Central Rail Systems Alliance created a diagram to support social distancing in vans.
Once staff arrive at site, some members are segregating sign in/out points and providing gloves for staff – asking them to use their own pens to avoid cross contamination. And some are staggering shifts to minimise exposure at handover points and keep numbers on site as low as possible.
Good hygiene plays a significant role too and members are ramping up their cleaning regimes. Examples include revised procedures for sanitising vehicles and workplaces, cleaning more frequently and providing hygiene products such as sanitising gel. And of course, preventing staff with symptoms from working is vital. Morson has adapted its ‘Fit for Work’ app, normally used to assess if a staff member has had the correct PPE and safety briefing before starting work. Now it asks questions to check if the worker is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and alerts their supervisor if they are.
Supporting mental wellbeing
Staff are working in new unfamiliar ways, working from home for the first time, or dealing with the uncertainty of being furloughed. Members are doing plenty to reassure and support staff during these challenging times. Many are using platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom to connect staff in new ways.
Practical steps to protect staff from anxiety and stress – or deal with the effects – have included online fitness and meditation sessions and encouraging people to call HR or their mental wellbeing champions for a chat. Members are also adapting working hours and practices to help workers fit their work demands around new caring responsibilities or home schooling.
There is a real risk of people becoming isolated in the current climate – particularly those living alone, and especially if they are used to working with others in a work site or office. TransPennine Express has introduced ‘Elevenses’ – at 11am every day, staff are encouraged to stop work for a brew and dial into an informal chat with other colleagues.
Capital Delivery Wales and Western have introduced wellbeing ‘bingo’, where staff participate in a competition with daily challenges around sleep, nutrition, fitness and mental wellbeing. The idea is to go for a full house!
Last, but not least, ‘giving back’ is a well-recognised way to support mental wellbeing, and members are encouraging their staff to get involved in supporting local communities. In these tough times, not every company can give staff paid time off to volunteer, or make donations themselves, but even encouraging staff to connect with their communities in their spare time can help them stay well. LNER has launched ‘LNER Reserves’, a scheme in which 100 staff are released from their duties to volunteer full time for the NHS, while GWR has donated £10,000 worth of food to local communities.
Members can download a recording of the webinar on the CIRAS members’ portal. Contact us on email@example.com if you need a reminder of your login details.