Legal advice: Are logistics businesses COVID-safe for Christmas?

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Nathan Taylor-Allkins
Nathan Taylor-Allkins of Woodfines Solicitors

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is stepping up its efforts to ensure Christmas is delivered safely as we enter the festive season.

With online orders ramping up as lockdown forces consumers to complete their Christmas shopping from the sofa, the transport and logistics industry will be feeling the pressure.

As a result, HSE inspectors and local authority officers are set to make inspections of warehouses and distribution centres across the UK, to ensure they are in full compliance with social distancing rules and all the relevant safety guidelines.

As a law firm specialising in services for the road transport and logistics sector, we’re on hand to provide expert legal advice on how to remain COVID-secure during this critical period.

Securing your workplace

The government has issued specific guidance for businesses within the logistics sector, outlining how to keep their workers and customers safe.

While this guidance is not itself enshrined in law, failing to adhere to it will increase employers’ risk of breaching workplace health and safety laws – and of failing an HSE inspection.

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers are under the legal obligation to “ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all [their] employees.”

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, government guidance for the transport sector suggests:

  • Carrying out a risk assessment to ensure the business fully addresses the risks of COVID-19.
  • Ensuring that employees who feel unwell or display symptoms stay at home and self-isolate – requiring them to come into work while self-isolating is illegal as of 28 September 2020.
  • Increasing the frequency of handwashing and other hygiene measures.
  • Revising schedules to reduce contact between drivers (for example, staggering when drivers arrive at depots, collection and delivery times and break times).
  • Introducing contactless delivery processes and avoiding physical contact when handing over packages to customers.
  • Keeping the number of people in vehicles to a minimum, implementing social distancing practices and ensuring good ventilation.
  • Ensuring social distancing not just within vehicles but also depots, break rooms and any other places drivers may congregate outside of the vehicle.
  • Looking after employees

Drivers have been under a huge amount of pressure during the coronavirus pandemic due to increased demand on the logistics sector.

As well as keeping their workers safe from coronavirus, logistics businesses should remember that they are also responsible for their general health and welfare at work.

Evidence from a recent Unite survey suggests that just one in five drivers had access to adequate toilet and handwashing facilities during the first lockdown earlier this year.

Not only have handwashing and personal hygiene been proven to be one of the biggest protectors against coronavirus, but allowing workers access to sanitary conveniences and washing facilities is actually a legal requirement under regulations 20 and 21 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

While these requirements are not new, HSE reminds businesses that “ensuring that hygiene facilities are made available to visiting drivers is especially important during the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

Logistics companies should also remember that as the temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules are no longer in force, Operators must ensure they are fully compliant with whichever regulations they operate under i.e. GB domestic rules or EU rules.

Need some (virtual) assistance?

If you’d like to learn more about the current challenges facing the logistics sector, we are holding a virtual transport conference on 3 December. This will cover:

  • An overview of enforcement activities for the end of EU transition
  • Sustainability and decarbonising HD vehicles
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Employment Law
  • Health & Safety
  • Public Inquiries

If you’re interested, please sign up by contacting Kerry Ransby at kransby@woodfines.co.uk

Or, for personalised advice from Woodfines’ specialist Road Transport and Logistics team about keeping your business COVID-secure in the busy run-up to Christmas, please contact our team at transport@woodfines.co.uk.

By Nathan Taylor-Allkins
In association with Woodfines Solicitors

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