UK transport union RMT has advised tens of thousands of workers in the rail and bus sector to stop work on safety grounds if employers do not provide protection from Covid-19. It says the union’s message to members follows escalating concerns that many employers are not taking steps to protect transport workers.
The RMT advice says rail and bus workers should stop work and invoke the “safe work procedure if employers do not follow key protection measures” including only conducting activities related to essential services, avoiding group and close promixity work and maintaining two metre separation of workers. Where this isn’t possible on essential jobs “then personal protective equipment such as gloves, eye defenders and masks [are] to be utilised by all workers in close proximity to provide mutual assurance and the time spent within two metres must be minimised and only for the purpose of the task. If full appropriate PPE is not available then work should not commence.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said “we have issued advice to our members in the rail and bus sectors that they should stop work on safety grounds if employers do not provide protection from Covid-19. That means that if they are not provided with PPE, including masks, eye defenders and gloves where necessary they should not be working.” He added: “Our members are increasingly concerned that many employers are not taking steps to protect transport workers despite rail and bus staff playing a key role in keeping people and goods moving in the fight against Covid-19.”
Citing the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the union advice notes: “Employees are protected by law if they decide that their work situation represents a threat of ‘serious or imminent danger’ and as a result of this belief they remove themselves to a place of safety. Protection is also given to trade union appointed health and safety representatives. RMT believes the current coronavirus–Covid-19 pandemic represents a real threat to life that can be deemed as ‘serious and imminent’.”