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Working practices changed during COVID-19 crisis

© West Midlands Trains. Bletchley Station.

Concern

A reporter was concerned that measures to reduce the spread of Covid–19 at London Northwestern Railway (LNR) Bletchley depot were not being followed. None of the three mess rooms at the depot are big enough for staff to adequately follow government advice to ensure a two-metre distance between individuals at all times (social distancing).

As a result, West Midlands Trains (WMT) decided to reduce the amount of time staff wait in the depot after they book on and before their first job. Although the reporter acknowledged this as an effective measure, they believed it did not go far enough. They added that this measure was not always followed as some staff were waiting for hours in the depot between booking on and their first job.

The reporter also observed a lack of items that staff need to support hygiene practices, including wipes and hand sanitising gels.

They therefore asked LNR (part of WMT) to:

  • consider introducing an on-call system where employees’ start times are confirmed, to prevent people waiting in the depot after booking on
    ensure staff at the depot have what they need to support good hygiene practices (i.e. wipes and hand sanitising gels)
  • reduce any unnecessary contact throughout the building (for example, by leaving the main doors to the depot open).

West Midlands Trains’ response

Our managing director and the executive team sees the health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and passengers as our top priority. The Covid-19 pandemic is at the forefront of all our minds and we maintain a position of updating, referencing and following the advice and guidance being shared by the UK Government, health authorities and the wider rail industry.

WMT is arranging to roster crews to diagrams in advance to minimise the time staff have to wait after booking on and before their first job. This will enable us to advise staff what turn they are working and provide them with a start time relevant to their first working shift rather than have them sitting waiting in mess rooms.

Local management is also arranging for staff to remain at home ready to work, for those that live a short commute from their place of work. Arrangements to facilitate social distancing have been put in place within areas of the business. We have removed some of the chairs from mess rooms and taped off areas to encourage the two-metre rule.

WMT has already significantly enhanced the cleaning regimes within all areas of the business, focusing on key touch points, for example, handles and signing-on-point telephones. We are also using our outsourced contractors to increase in-house cleaning and sanitising where required. We are maintaining our supply of hand gels, wipes and sanitisers that are distributed to all areas of our business. Regular communications give advice on how to use the sanitising products provided and staff are also briefed by their line managers.

Gold Command video meetings attended by the WMT exec and senior managers are held where we also review the situation on a daily basis to ensure that we continue to manage the process dynamically.
Local teams are carrying out additional safety tours with managers and safety reps to monitor arrangements put in place and to talk to staff to reassure them, respond to their concerns and offer informed advice. We have and will continue to follow government advice on how to limit our colleagues’ exposure to Covid-19 and to reduce all unnecessary contact.

We encourage all our colleagues not to undertake any non-essential travel and to follow the UK Government’s advice at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.