• CTA’s Coronavirus Guidance: running your services safely

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    Running your service safely

    The guidance on this page  looks at our recommendations of what you need to consider when running any services under the restrictions where you are.

    If you’re looking to find out what services you can and can’t operate – you can find the latest information for where you are on our main guidance page here

    Carrying passengers during the COVID-19 crisis is essentially a health and safety concern and as a CT operator you should work within your existing health and safety framework. Your designated health and safety representative should ensure that they are familiar with the range of government & official guidance that has been issued, and keep abreast of the frequent updates. 

    You should ensure that at least one person is delegated the role of frequently checking guidance and ascertaining what can and cannot be undertaken in your area of operation. As different rules and restrictions remain in place across the country and local authority areas, changes are happening frequently and often at short notice.    

    CTA has worked with the TAS Partnership to provide detailed guidance on how to safely run any services you’re operating. If you want to look at a specific topic, you can jump to it by clicking the links below.

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    Risk assessment and risk management

    As the situation is changing frequently, it’s important to consider creating a new risk assessment every time your local tier or restrictions change.   

    Although risk assessments should always target the specific circumstances of each operation, there is a number of issues that will commonly affect most operators:

    • Older people and those with underlying health issues – given that most CT beneficiaries and some staff/volunteers fall into these categories, special attention should be paid to them
    • Passengers – ensuring customers’ basic needs are met and that they’re not at risk of loneliness if unable to travel
    • Vehicles – accommodating passengers while keeping social distance (boarding/alighting, seating layout), minimizing direct contact (cash handling, passenger assistance), cleaning and PPE
    • Drivers/Passenger assistants – regular monitoring of health and wellbeing, social distance in the office/depot, provision of PPE

    With the support of CTA members from across the UK, CTA have produced community transport specific templates and resources relating to COVID-19 risk assessments which CTA members can download from ctauk.org/advice-resources/risk-assessment-and-management.

    If you’re not a CTA member, you can still download our ‘How To’ guide for risk assessments, as well as a COVID-19 specific risk assessment template below.

    Download our risk assessment ‘how to’ guide here

    Download our COVID-19 specific risk assessment template here

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    General information on re-starting services

    The COVID-19 crisis is a constantly changing situation, which means that you’ll need to review your organisation’s circumstances weekly, if not daily, based on the new information emerging in your area and your own operational experience. Here’s some actions you should put into place that’ll help you meet those challenges:

    • Undertake new risk assessments – these should detail all the steps that you’ve taken to reduce/eliminate the likelihood of virus transmission.
    • Update risk registers/documentation
    • Ensure that your reporting and escalation systems are responsive and robust
    • If you are in an area that restricts travel, your organisation should have a policy on what constitutes an essential or necessary journey’ which will assist your risk management process.
    • If you operate in an area with less stringent restrictions, you should set a policy on what journeys you are prepared to undertake. You can set your own level of risk. However, you may want to agree your definition of allowable journey with your funder. 
    • For car schemes, in most of the UK the local guidance is that only essential or necessary journeys’ should be made in shared cars. 
    • Risk assessments should take into account the age and health profile of passengers. You may also want to undertake individual risk assessments for vulnerable passengers. 
    • Keep in active, regular and open communication with your trustee board – they should always be aware of new developments taking place in order to make informed decisions
    • Keep in active, regular and open communication with stakeholders and funders – they should be aware of your organisation’s service levels and changes put in place, and make sure those will not conflict with any contract terms
    • Keep in active, regular and open communication with staff, volunteers and beneficiaries – they should always be aware of the steps implemented to safeguard them
    • Make necessary adjustments to vehicles, buildings, systems and procedures – this may include an investment in materials that you may not have needed before (e.g. PPE)
    • Check all insurances to ensure cover is maintained
    • Before putting any changes to services into action, make sure you understand the levels of financial risk you will incur by doing so, and always seek out the various support fund that have been made available
    • If offering new types of services, always check your VAT situation
    • Wherever possible, maintain any activities that contribute to the safety of your operation (e.g. MiDAS, PATS, CPC, vehicle and equipment inspection and maintenance)

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    Workplace guidance information 

    Any workplaces must follow social distancing guidance.

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    Social Distancing and the Rule of Six

    The principle of social distancing has been the universally adopted measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 with a two metre gap to be maintained where possible between any two or more people who do not live in the same household. All safety measures should embrace this rule but recognising that there are certain situations where this distance is physically impossible to maintain.  

    For England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the governments have altered the rule to either two metres or one metre plus, where the plus’ means that additional mitigation measures are in place. In the case of CT operations, in addition to our extra sanitisation procedures these measures should include the use of face coverings by passengers and staff (when not driving). In implementing this relaxation, for example in determining how many seats to make available to passengers in a minibus, each operator will need to balance the needs of its passengers against the compromises that might be necessary when providing journeys. Note that you are concerned with managing risk to a reasonable level, not attempting to eliminate it.  

    Currently the two metre rule remains in force for Wales. This rule may be reviewed at a local level in England or devolved level across the UK. We will endeavour to keep this updated as government advice changes, however you should check the current position and advice in your area.  

    The Rule of Six may also play a factor in how you transport passengers.England, Scotland and Northern Ireland apply the rule differently and Wales does not have such a rule at present.  

    All four guidance documents do not include public transport in the rule of six.That said, they specify whether people can or cannot meet in each other’s homes.If meeting in a home is not allowed in your area of operation, then you should not transport passengers to private homes.It may be worth supporting them to meet in an outdoor or public area, it is important to balance respect for the restrictions whilst promoting social inclusion.   

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    Face Coverings

    Face coverings are now compulsory on public transport and in private hire vehicles and taxis in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Although the new rules do not explicitly mention community transport services delivered under a section 19 or 10B permit, CTA strongly recommend that the same guidelines are followed and passengers are required to wear a face covering unless they fall under one of the recognised exemptions. As these regulations include buses, this will be a legal requirement for those operating community transport services under a section 22 permit.   

    The requirements do not apply to:  

    • School transport services:  
      • In England and Wales, children under the age of 11 are exempt in all circumstances. 
      • In Northern Ireland, children under 13 are exempt 
      • In Scotland, children over five must wear face coverings on transport to and from school.
    • In some parts of the UK, stations, stops and interchanges are exempt, but not for the whole of the UK, for instance they must be worn in stations and at bus stops in Northern Ireland. You should check local restrictions.

    There are also circumstances where a passenger may be exempt from the requirements due to a reasonable excuse, which may include:  

    • Where they cannot put on, wear, or remove a face covering without severe distress or because of any physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010). 
    • Where they are travelling with, or providing assistance to, another person who relies on lip-reading to communicate. 
    • Where they remove the face covering to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to themselves or others. 
    • Where they are travelling to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and do not have a face covering with them. 
    • To eat or drink where it is reasonably necessary to do so. 
    • Where they have to remove their face covering to take medication. 
      Where they are requested to remove the face covering by a constable or other relevant person.

    A face covering covers a persons nose and mouth and can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head. There are useful guides online which show you how a face covering can be made at home. 

    Please note that face coverings and face shields are not the same thing. For England and Northern Ireland, the guidance does not mention face shields, in Wales guidance specifically states that the covering must be made of cloth, therefore a shield is not permissible. In Scotland a face shield is deemed a suitable alternative provided it covers the whole face. 

    When you are writing your risk assessment and setting policy on face overings you should look at the restrictions in your area:

    If you are using any medical Personal Protective Equipment, you can find the UK Government’s guidance on PPE use here. It is aimed mainly towards medical professionals, but some elements may be useful for community transport providers running essential services.

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    Supporting Staff and Volunteers

    Practical measures should be put into place in order to protect staff and volunteers, and you should be proactive in ensuring that those measures are complied with. Here’s our recommendations:

    • Provide PPE (despite face coverings being optional, these should still be provided, as well as gloves and on board cleaning materials) and adapt vehicles (protective screens)
    • Monitor the health of frontline staff/volunteers closely, and (as and when possible) ensure they undergo tests
    • Ensure that safety measures are put in place in order to better manage situations where staff/volunteers come into contact with each other (e.g. car sharing, shared office/depot spaces such as kitchens, toilets and break rooms)
    • Keep an open line of communication with each member of your team. This will help you assess how comfortable they are in continuing to provide the services, what support they may need from you and if any existing underlying health issues may be a concern (this could extend to their immediate household).
    • Evaluate if there’s a need to deploy drivers deemed to be at risk due to age (over 70s) and/or health issues – bear in mind that some insurance companies have now withheld cover from drivers over 70 for CT operations.
    • For those volunteer drivers deemed at risk due to age and other health issues, find other volunteering opportunities such as administration they could do at home or a befriending service.

    Resources for supporting your staff and volunteers 

    We’ve put together a number of resources on supporting your staff and volunteers as you re-start services. As with the risk assessment guide above, we’re making these usually member only resources are open access to help get services back up and running. If you’re using these resources and aren’t a CTA member, you can find more information about CTA membership here.

    How-to guide: supporting volunteers as services restart 

    This how to guide on supporting volunteers as services restart looks at the following topics:

      • Retaining new volunteers who joined during lock-down
      • Volunteer safety and training
      • Supporting vulnerable volunteers
      • Checklist for managing volunteers during COVID-19
      • Other sources of guidance

    Download the how-to guide here. 

    Checklists and guidance for community transport drivers

    Regardless of what tier or extremity of lockdown you are currently operating in, we highly recommend you maintain the highest possible levels of cleanliness and safety precautions.   If any drivers are just now returning from furlough, or are new to your team, you might want to share our returning drivers checklist. 

    Our returning drivers checklist can be given to drivers and signed to show they understand your responsibilities and their responsibilities wen operating a services.

    Our start of shift checklist for drivers can be given to drivers and signed to show they have taken the necessary safety precautions ahead of their journey.

    Download our returning drivers checklist

    Download our start of shift check-list

    Training 

    All frontline staff/volunteers should be given ongoing training on operational procedures and safety measures.It is also important that you communicate the risk scenarios identified to your staff/volunteers and provide them with training on how to deal with potential occurrences (e.g. contact with persons showing symptoms, lost property, queues at shops). 

    Training and associated risk assessments should be tailored for your local restrictions or tier system, and updated each time these change.   

    Regular weekly briefings are recommended, especially with frontline staff. Make sure you keep records of all communications, as well as training provided. If more specialised knowledge is required, always seek guidance and training input from the relevant experts. 

    Older volunteers 

    When considering how you want to manage volunteers returning, you should be aware that some individuals will have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. People in this category will have received a letter from their GP advising them to shield during lockdown. The government is advising that these individuals do not need to shield at the moment, but if local lockdowns are in place in your area you should check for any specific restrictions.  

    Now that shielding is no longer in place there is nothing explicitly preventing these individuals – or people more generally who are over 70 – from getting into/back to volunteering with their local community transport provider. However, it is essential that operators take care to complete a thorough risk assessment as many people in this group could be at greater risk if they were to be infected with COVID-19, in particular those people with additional health conditions. We would recommend that community transport providers discuss these increased risks with their volunteers and a clear agreement and control measures are put in place before any volunteer work commences.  

    It may not be helpful to create a blanket policy about whether to allow older volunteers to return or not. Instead, it may be more appropriate to consider each volunteer individually, the role they are volunteering for, and to create a specific risk assessment for each one. Although this process may be time consuming, it may help both you as an operator and the volunteer to feel more confident.  

    Where possible you should first consider offering volunteering roles which can be done from home. You could also consider offering roles where maintaining social distancing is easier, such as making deliveries. Where social distancing is not possible you will need to carefully assess what control measures you can put in place and whether you are then left with an acceptable level of risk. It may be worth discussing this with your insurers to understand what cover you have in place regarding volunteers. NCVO have produced some guidance about insurance for volunteers and have also shared a useful webinar about Covid-19 and managing risks. 

    Ultimately it is for the volunteer to decide, and your duty to that volunteer is to clearly communicate all the risks and satisfy yourself that the volunteer knows and understands the level of risk they are undertaking before they continue with their volunteer work.  

    As with the risk assessment guide above, were making these usually member only resources open access to help get services back up and running. If youre using these resources and aren’t a CTA member, you can find more information about CTA membership here.  

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    How do we make our vehicles as safe as possible?

    Vehicles are a fundamental component of the whole CT operation, and you should be very thorough at assessing potential risks. When implementing safety measures, consider the following:

    • Cleanliness – sanitized wiping of all contact surfaces (seats, handles, grabs, seatbelts, wheelchair handles) between each passenger, deep cleaning after each shift
    • Internal arrangements – where possible, fitting of protective screens between the passenger and driver, and for the passenger seating areas, removal (or cordoning out of use) of seats or spacing out of seats that are left in use
    • Minimising/eliminating cash handling – this may mean using a credit/account system or adding facilities for receiving contactless card payments
    • Always consider if any changes you have made will impact on accessibility levels (e.g. emergency evacuation procedures)
    • Car schemes have very limited ability to meet social distancing requirements; however cars should be subject to sanitised cleaning and, where possible, passengers should be seated in the rear nearside seat. Training should be provided to volunteer drivers using their own vehicles on how to safely and effectively clean their vehicle.

    Please note: driver screens are intended to create a barrier against directly expelled droplets from coughs and sneezes or face to face conversation. They are not intended to encapsulate the driver or prevent all air flow.

    Community car schemes

    Whilst the guidance in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland no longer states that public transport must only be used for essential journeys, this is not the case for guidance on car sharing – the ‘essential journey’ qualification is still in place for car-sharing guidance, though not in taxi guidance.

    For more information on what you need to consider when running car scheme journeys, take a look at our more detailed guidance for community car schemes below.

    Download our community car scheme guidance

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    Supporting passengers

    It is imperative that operations are planned and delivered with the safety of passengers in mind. This means following strict social distancing and hygiene protocols. Here’s our advice on keeping passengers safe when resuming services:

    • Regularly communicate with passengers by informing them of your organisations COVID-19 policies – this includes the requirements that they must meet in order to be carried and that the service will be declined if a person (or anyone else in their household) is showing symptoms   
    • Taking account of government advice, make clear which kinds of journey are deemed allowable, necessary or essential and only agree to provide these services – this may vary depending upon the vehicle used and which part of the UK you are operating in. For example, a long journey in a car involves proportionately greater risk (to driver and passenger) of infection than a shorter journey in a minibus. But it will be reasonable (provided you have put in place the preventative hygiene measures identified above) to undertake the car journey where, for example, this is to facilitate a health appointment because the health risks from missing the appointment are likely to be greater than the minimal risk that arises from making the journey. Both driver and passenger should understand the risk and be making that journey on a voluntary basis.   
    • If youre obliged (section 22 services or instructions from your commissioner/funder) or following appropriate risk assessments adopted a policy that passengers must cover their faces while travelling, it is a good idea to have a stock of these on the vehicle. It is CTAs view that and organisations default policy should be ‘no face covering, no journey, but each organisation should set its own policy, taking account of exemptions were appropriate.   
    • Where passengers require assistance, ensure that you understand what this will involve and that drivers agree to provide it. Alternatively, check if the passenger can be accompanied by another member of the household to provide any physical assistance.  
    • For passengers who need a high degree of physical assistance, the use of a wheelchair to get them into and off the vehicle may be safer, as the person is facing away from the driver/assistant and physical contact is limited. This may need to be approached sensitively with the passengers.

    We’ve put together information for passengers which we recommend they read to understand their responsibilities and your responsibilities on board a service. Download this resource here.

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