Covid-19 Guidance

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 the Executive Committee has been reacting to the rapid developments within our industry, often on a daily basis to provide guidance and protection to ASLEF members whilst carrying out their duties.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 the Executive Committee has been reacting to the rapid developments within our industry, often on a daily basis to provide guidance and protection to ASLEF members whilst carrying out their duties.

We have also produced instructions on the operation and functions of ASLEF to ensure that we continue to provide representation during these difficult times.

These instructions and guidance have been issued as bulletins and will continue to be so.

Along with the bulletins, we have produced a guidance document listing, in full, any updated agreements or best practice regarding staying safe during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This guidance was last updated at 16:00, Tuesday 8 September 2020.

Key Principles

Below are key principles you should adopt when applying this guidance. These principles should be applied when considering this guidance even where there is not an explicit reference to them.

 

1) Social distancing and Personal hygiene

This is an evolving and sometimes complex issue, especially when we try to judge the delivery of an essential service with our members welfare. If in doubt negotiators are reminded that the principle for all agreements relating to social distancing is that contact with other people should be kept to an absolute minimum.

If you are required to attend work, you are advised to take personal precautions on hygiene and social distancing in line with government advice. (ASLEF continues to support the 2m social distancing rule despite government guidance relaxing this requirement. (June 2020))

The guidance we have provided here and any future guidance are dependent on personal hygiene and social distancing measures being carried out by our members. This should be applied to every scenario outlined in the following guidance even if it is unspecified.

 

We advise that you:

1. Wash your hands frequently

i) Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based rub or wash them with soap and water

ii) Ensure that you clean them prior to entering or leaving a building

iii) Ensure that you clean them prior to preparing or eating food

2. Maintain social distancing

i) Maintain at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance between yourself and anyone else

ii) Avoid touching your

a) eyes, nose and mouth

b) surfaces

3. Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. 

This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue. 

 

2) Personal hygiene equipment

Members are to use company issued anti-viral hand sanitisers and wipes for personal hygiene and the cleaning of cab controls when carrying out their duties where necessary. This requirement is key to our members safety and is an implied term throughout this guidance.

 

3) Additional time

During the COVID-19 outbreak additional time will be needed for carrying out the requirements laid out in ASLEF guidance. Therefore, any additional duties or tasks that our members need to carry out to ensure their safety and the safety of others should be assessed and additional time placed in diagrams or schedules for these to be carried out effectively. This requirement is key to our members safety and is an implied term throughout this document.

The Executive Committee may send out a form for negotiators to complete from time to time to ensure these additional requirements are being implemented.

 

4) Continual assessment

As the government relaxes its COVID-19 restrictions and our industry begins to increase service levels we will see an increase in the amount of staff at work and passengers on the network.

Negotiators should apply a continual assessment method for all of the guidance and advice in this document to ensure that facilities, materials and methods of work are robust enough to deliver any proposed increase whilst maintaining our members safety through social distancing. This requirement is key to our members safety and is an implied term throughout this document.

 

5) Work safe procedure

Members who (at any time) feel that the precautions taken (or lack thereof) by their company does not provide sufficient protection from COVID – 19 and therefore does not feel safe at work are advised to enact their company's "work safe" procedure (or equivalent).

Terms and Conditions

1) Annual leave

1. Where annual leave falls during a period where our members are not able to attend for work due to showing symptoms or are self-isolating, in compliance with Government guidance, because someone in their household has symptoms they should be treated as sick and entitled to take their leave at a later date.

2. Where annual leave falls during a period where our members covered by the Government guidance on shielding and protecting people who are defined on medical grounds as being extremely vulnerable from Coronavirus who have been advised by their GP or NHS representative to self-isolate they may be treated as being on leave.

3. Where annual leave falls during a period where our members who are covered by the Government guidance of being at an increased risk who are able to remain at work safely and it is then deemed that they should self-isolate they may be treated as being on leave.

Further details are contained in the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum (RICF) - Emergency Working Principles.

 

2) Clinically vulnerable people

a) Clinically vulnerable people are defined as:

i. aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)

ii. under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds)

iii. chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis

iv. chronic heart disease, such as heart failure

v. chronic kidney disease

vi. chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis

vii. chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy

viii. diabetes

ix. a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)

x. being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)

xi. pregnant people

b) When clinically vulnerable members are required to return to work we advise that best practice is:

i. to ensure that hygiene and social distancing measures are being carried out in line with ASLEF and government guidance

ii. for a full risk assessment to be carried out and controls put in place to reduce any identified risk in the workplace

iii. if a risk assessment shows that a clinically vulnerable member is exposed to an unacceptable level of risk then they should be sent home on full pay.  

Full advice and guidance on clinically vulnerable people is available from the HSE website

 

3) Members over seventy

Any members over the age of 70 are strongly advised not to attend work and are to self-isolate in line with government advice. Any member doing so will have the full support of ASLEF.

 

4) Vulnerable persons (shielding)

It is recommended that those members who have been classed as vulnerable or pregnant members who are required to return to work should undergo an Individual risk assessment to ensure that it is safe for them to do so.

Preparation for Work

1) Arriving at work

You should be aware of others as you arrive at your depot and maintain social distancing measures at all times. If your depot is contained within a station, there will be an increased risk from passengers and other members of staff.

 

We advise that best practice is:

a) For stations to be organised in line with the expected passenger flow and with government guidance on social distancing measures including:

i) allowing for managed traffic flow

ii) marking traffic and queuing areas for easy identification

b) Passenger queuing should be kept to an absolute minimum. Where this is not possible then queues should:

i) not obstruct passenger flow

ii) and adhere to social distancing measures

c) Staff are to be allocated designated station entry and exit points to avoid contact with members of the public where possible.

d) Staff should have their own walking route to their booking on point (where possible), organised in line with social distancing measures.

 

2) Booking on for duty

Booking on points will be the first time (for most of our members) where they will come into contact with other people. Therefore, remote booking on via tablet PC or mobile phone is the preferred option (if provided by the company and agreements are in place).

In this respect we advise that best practice is:

a) That the company should make arrangements for any diagrams, notices or documents to be made available to our members prior to working their train in a format agreed by our negotiators.

Where remote booking on is not possible we advise that best practice is:

a)  Booking on times should be staggered to allow for appropriate social distancing measures to be practiced.

b)  Booking on points should have clear social distancing markings

c)  Local guidance for the use of booking on points should be agreed depending on the size and facilities available

Operating Trains

1) Bringing a train into service

Sufficient time should be allocated in diagrams (without detriment to PNBs or other requirements) to arrive at the starting point in good enough time to prevent contact with other passengers and staff.

This could be achieved by: 

a) Staff only walking routes

b) Staff only platform areas

c) The use of passenger announcements to control boarding and alighting

d) Barriers to control passenger access to platforms

e) Or other agreed measure

If members are starting a service, they should have been notified in advance or there should be a clear indication in the cab that an agreed cab cleaning process has been carried out.

If a member is in doubt that regular cleaning has been carried out and is as a result concerned for their own safety, they should start the company’s refusal to work process (or equivalent)

 

2) Relieving another driver

Sufficient time should be allocated in diagrams (without detriment to PNB’s or other requirements) to arrive at the relieving point in good enough time to prevent contact with other passengers and staff.

This could be achieved by:

a) Staff only walking routes.

b) Staff only platform areas.

c) The use of passenger announcements to control boarding and alighting.

d) Barriers to control passenger access to platforms.

e) Or other agreed measure.

When relieving another driver, members should:

a) Arrive at the relieving point in good time.

b) Keep your personal Drivers' keys with you – do not transfer them between drivers, even if this means shutting down and re-opening the cab desk.

c) Stand 2 metres from the exit and wait for the driver to leave the cab.

d) Whilst observing social distancing measures you should carry out a verbal handover.

e)  Enter the driving cab and clean the controls and frequently touched surfaces (if necessary).

f)  Additional time should be allocated to carry out these tasks.

 

3) Leaving the train

Sufficient time should be allocated in diagrams (without detriment to PNBs or other requirements) to leave a relieving point or terminus in good enough time to prevent contact with other passengers and staff.

This could be achieved by: 

a) Staff only walking routes.

b) Staff only platform areas.

c) The use of passenger announcements to control boarding and alighting.

d) Barriers to control passenger access to platforms. 

e) Or other agreed measure.

When being relieved by another driver members should:

a)  Ensure that the relieving driver is standing 2 meters away from the cab exit.

b)  leave the driving cab when it's safe to do so (if you are in passenger service you should avoid exiting via the saloon).

c)  Whilst observing social distancing measures you should carry out a verbal handover.

d)  Go directly to your next place of work, PNB point or home as appropriate.

 

4) Third party sites

Some third-party sites (e.g. freight yards and maintenance depots) already employ additional safety measures when accessing their property. With the COVID-19 outbreak these companies may have extended this requirement to PPE used to protect their employees from COVID-19.

If your company must access these third-party sites, then members should be advised in advance of all the requirements regarding the use of additional PPE at that site including:

a) What facilities are available for the issue of additional equipment at the site (if required).

b) Disposal procedures and facilities at the site.

c) Methods of working at the site whilst using PPE.

We also advise that best practice is:

a) For members and negotiators to take note of the section on PPE and Personal hygiene in the ASLEF guidance document and bulletins.

b) For your company to provide training for the use of the PPE required.

c) For your company to provide a sufficient supply of PPE for the sites they are expected to access.

d) For your company to provide sufficient means of disposal for used PPE.

Driver Training

1) General

For the period of COVID-19 restrictions and in light of the developments surrounding increased service levels and in line with Executive Committee resolution 623/489, other than training packages that have been previously rejected, judgement as to the validity of any application for training will be left to our negotiators with the exception of:

a) Training packages associated with a type of traction that is currently unacceptable to ASLEF or is undergoing a review.

Any agreed recommencement of training must:

a) adhere to the principles contained in the RICF document 'COVID-19 Additional Measures Driver Training Competence Development' which can be found on the ASLEF website

b) be reviewed on a regular basis by our representatives

Any agreed training may be withdrawn if:

a) Government or RICF advice changes,

b) Instructed by the Executive Committee or,

c) Company hygiene and social distancing measures are not being met to the satisfaction of negotiators

d) A review of training highlights a safety issue

Other Duties

1) Alternative drivers' duties

We advise that in case of cancelled driver training, or where our members have no essential driving duties to undertake they should be away from the workplace and at home in line with government advice.

 

2) Medicals

If the guidance in this section cannot be achieved, then the member should be stood down as the safest option.

We advise that best practice is: 

a) The instances of when our members are required to physically attend a medical appointment for any reason should be kept to an absolute minimum.

b) That virtual consultations should always be considered as an alternative to physical appointments in the first instance.

c) Where periodic medicals are due, and where there is no apparent medical or clinical need, then TOC’s and FOC’s should carry out an individual risk assessment in line with ORR guidance and (if necessary) allow the usual periodic timescales to lapse so the driver can continue driving duties until such time as circumstances allow. 

d) In line with the NHS suspension of community (non-emergency) Physiotherapy, then attendance at TOC/FOC Occupational Health Physiotherapy referrals by drivers should not take place. 

Where there is a medical or clinical need to attend an appointment for any of the reasons outlined above in person then negotiators should ensure the following:

a) That the medical facility complies with ASLEF, Industry and Government guidelines on social distancing and personal hygiene.

b) That use of the medical facility is regularly reviewed by representatives.

c) That the distance our members are required to travel to appointments is kept to an absolute minimum.

d) That individual cases are assessed prior to the appointment to ensure that this is appropriate and necessary.

 

3) Attendance at Coroners Courts, BTP interviews and RAIB etc

Attendance at Coroners Courts, BTP interviews, RAIB interviews and any Public Inquiry should only take place if absolutely necessary and conducted in line with Government advice on social distancing.

Personal Protection

1) Face Masks

As per circular 328/2020 ASLEF supports the guidance supplied in the RICF document "Guidance on the Wearing of Face Coverings by Employees" which can be found on the ASLEF website. 

 

2) Cab cleaning

Effective cleaning of driving cab surfaces provides a first line response in the protection of our members and every company should have a regular cleaning regime above and beyond their normal cleaning requirement to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

We advise that best practice is:

a)  To ensure that every TOC and FOC are carrying out regular cleaning of the driving cabs, (preferably with Zoono or other suitable anti-viral solution).

b)  That cab cleaning is carried out at a frequency that takes into account the length of effectiveness of the anti-viral solution (if used).

c)  That notification of cab cleaning should be provided to the driver by means which makes this easily identifiable before or when in the process of taking over the train.

d)  If a member is in doubt that regular cleaning has been carried out and is therefore concerned for their own safety, they should start the company’s refusal to work process (or equivalent)

Note: If companies are using anti-viral solutions like Zoono then due to their anti-viral properties this may rule out the need for:

a) Drivers to use company issued cleaning materials for the cab controls.

b) More frequent cleaning.

 

3) Number of personnel in a driving cab

If you are required to operate a train/tram/metro as a part of your duties, you are advised to take personal precautions on hygiene and social distancing in line with government advice. These should not preclude you from driving unless these precautions cannot be met.

We advise that best practice is:

a) That only one person should be in the cab at any one except when:

i) agreed for training purposes.

ii) when carrying out rule book requirements in relation to degraded working.

Diagramming and Rostering

1) General requirements

The overarching principle for diagramming and rostering should be "Do these members need to be at work?" If they don't then they should be at home in line with government advice. Remember:

"Stay home, stay safe and protect the NHS"

We advise that best practice is:

a) Reducing the number of members at work to the absolute minimum necessary to deliver the train plan.

b) Placing PNBs on the end of short diagrams (where diagramming parameters permit this) so that members can go straight home and not to a full mess room or PNB point.

c) Where diagrams are too long to have PNBs at the end of them then consideration should be given to having as few driver change overs as possible.

d) We advise that best practice when considering members who are "Spare" is:

i) That the train plan should keep the number of spares to an absolute minimum.

ii) To adopt the principle of "sit at home" spares where contact via mobile phone is made if the member is required.

iii) Members that are sent home can be used for short notice cover (standby) subject to agreement with our negotiators.

Facilities

1) General

Negotiators and representatives should ensure that regular reviews of facilities are carried out to assess the number of personnel using them at any given time. This is especially important when dealing with increases in service delivery which will ultimately increase the number of staff at our depots and PNB points, including staff from other operators.

 

2) Common staff areas

If you are required to use common staff areas like messrooms or PNB points as a part of your duties, you are advised to take personal precautions on hygiene and social distancing in line with government advice. These should not preclude you from using these facilities unless these precautions cannot be met.

We advise that best practice is:

a) To limit the number of members using these areas to the absolute minimum according to the train plan in operation.

b) Common staff areas should provide for adequate space for our members to apply hygiene and social distancing measures.

c) Where there is not enough space to apply these measures then alternative arrangements should be made including being sent home without loss of pay.

d) Removal of 'unnecessary' furniture from messrooms and PNB points etc to ensure that social distancing measures are met.

e) Using hazard tape to outline social distancing limits in common staff areas, including booking on points and mess rooms.

 

3) The use of toilets at depots or PNB points

Health and safety legislation should already be employed in workplaces prior to COVID-19 to provide enough hand basins, urinals and water closets for our members to use.

We also have a reduced service currently in place and attendance at work is kept to a minimum, so we do not envisage an immediate issue with the provision and use of these facilities.

Regular cleaning should already be taking place, but this should be reviewed as the train service is increased and members return to work.

We advise that best practice is to:

a) Assess the maximum people who can safely use facilities at any one time in line with government advice on social distancing and personal hygiene.

b) Introduce procedures to enforce that maximum where possible.

c) Secure the provision of additional facilities for the use of staff where available.

d) Prioritise the use of toilet facilities by those members working trains by having a designated facility where possible.

Note: Negotiators and representatives should ensure that regular reviews of these facilities are carried out to assess the number of personnel using them including staff from other operators.

 

4) Use of toilets on trains and stations

a) Avoid using on-train or station toilets that are open to the public unless it is absolutely necessary.

b)  If this is unavoidable then:

i)  Wipe down any surfaces that will be used.

ii)  Wash your hands immediately before and after use.

 

5) Air-conditioning

We have updated our guidance on air-conditioning after receiving industry advice. This has been circularised to representatives in circular 265/2020.

This advice is generic and should be digested and applied as necessary taking into account each traction type and methods of operation of each TOC and FOC.

Travelling as Part of Your Duties

1) Travelling in Taxis

Representatives and negotiators should challenge all elements of taxi provision to see if alternative arrangements can be put in place and that the taxi provider can meet the requirements below.

Note: Companies may have to change their taxi provider to comply with this advice.

If you are required to travel in a taxi as a part of your duties, you are advised to take personal precautions on hygiene and social distancing in line with government advice.

We advise that best practice is:

a) Travelling by taxi (for any reason) should be kept to an absolute minimum and every effort should be made to remove taxi travel from all diagrams.

b) All alternate (more preferable) methods of transporting members should be exhausted before considering any form of taxi travel including:

i) The provision of staff trains

ii) Use of a company designated vehicle e.g. Minibus (or similar)

c) Where taxi use is unavoidable:

i) Black cabs / Hackney style taxi to be used as this provides additional room and a screen between our members and the driver of the cab.

ii) Any other taxi that provides a screen for the protection of our members.

iii) There should only be one passenger per taxi where possible.

d) Driving Instructors and trainees (where training is agreed as essential) may travel together if they are agreeable. 

e) Companies should ensure that taxi travel is included in their track and trace system.

Note: There will be times when none of the options above are available and times when companies cannot fully comply with this guidance in this case taxis (of the saloon type) can be used with caution and only as a last resort.

 

2) Travelling passenger on trains

Members travelling passenger on trains as a part of their duty should be kept to an absolute minimum.

If you are required to travel 'passenger' as a part of your duties, you are advised to take personal precautions on hygiene and social distancing in line with government advice. This should not preclude you from travel unless these precautions cannot be met.

We advise that best practice is:

a) For members to utilise the non-driving cabs of their own company, if available and where agreed.

 

3) Travelling on the underground

The requirement for our members to travel passenger on the underground as a part of their duties should be kept to an absolute minimum.

If you are required to travel on the underground as a part of your duties, you are advised to take personal precautions on hygiene and social distancing in line with government advice. This should not preclude you from travel unless these precautions cannot be met.

We advise that best practice is:

a) For members to utilise the non-driving cabs, if available and where agreed.

 

4) Travelling passenger on Rail replacement buses

We do not advise the use of rail replacement buses for our members to travel (as a part of your duties) in any circumstance and alternative arrangements should be made in line with current guidance.

 

5) Driving Vans and hire cars

If you are required to drive company vans or hire cars as a part of your duties, you are advised to take personal precautions on hygiene and social distancing in line with government advice. These should not preclude you from driving these vehicles unless these precautions cannot be met.

We advise that best practice is:

a) There should only be one person per van (where there are only two front seats).

b) Two people in the case of a hire car or van (where there are also rear seats).

c) All vehicles are to be subject to a regular cleaning regime.

d) Provision of gloves where available.

e) Provision of anti-viral wipes or other suitable cleaning products to clean the controls.

ASLEF Organising

1) ASLEF structures

Members and representatives are reminded to use the proper reporting process for raising issues for action within ASLEF and the company negotiating machinery. We understand that the role of the Branch has changed but reporting issues at the appropriate level is a principle that must be maintained to deal with problems effectively.

 

2) Branches

In all cases traditional face to face branch meetings remain suspended until further notice. In line with Circular 300/2020 regular branch meetings should be reintroduced and held via online conferencing software.

 

3) Representing Members

Discipline, IGP, CDP (or equivalent) meetings should be carried out virtually where appropriate taking into account the following:

a) The severity or personal nature of the case.

b) Whether an effective case can be made if the meeting is conducted in this manner.

c) The ability to provide and review detailed case information.

Where it is appropriate or necessary to carry out meetings face to face then the following must be considered:

a) Travel of participants must be reduced to a minimum.

b) Social distancing and personal hygiene measures must be in place and observed by all participants.

The appropriate meeting method will take into account this guidance and be at the discretion of the District Organiser concerned.

 

4) ASLEF Election Processes

1. Local positions

Elections for the following positions should be carried out as appropriate:

a) Branch Committee positions (as detailed in Rule 10)

b) Other Branch positions (as detailed in Rule 10)

This may require a temporary change to Branch Standing Orders to facilitate these elections via online conferencing software.

2. Elections for positions covered by rule 9.C.1

The following temporary election procedure should be used for positions covered by rule 9.C.1 until further notice.

a) A circular will be issued from Head Office electronically to the branch or branches concerned giving the details of the position or positions concerned for which nominations are required and an appropriate form or forms will be provided for the submission of same. In normal circumstances six weeks will be allowed for the submission of nominations except where special circumstances arise. Nomination papers must show the meeting date, show a mover and seconder of the nominee(s) and be signed by either the branch chair or secretary or in their absence by their elected deputies. The name of the non-signing chair or secretary must also be shown for additional transparency. Although not mandatory, nomination papers should bear the branch stamp if available. All nominees must be clear on the membership records. Where more than one valid nomination is received for one position ballot papers will be issued by Head Office.

b) In the case of nominations for Company Councillors or their equivalent, Learner Representatives or their equivalent where only one branch is involved the nominations does not temporarily have to be included within Branch Standing Orders. Any such election process is to be decided by a simple majority.

c) The method of voting shall be on the block voting system, according to the number of members involved in any specific election as shown on the membership database on the day the election is called, or the number of members paying the political levy as appropriate. Members who disagree with the candidate selected by the branch may under these temporary measures apply to admin2@aslef.org.uk for an individual vote which must be returned to the election email address on the form issued. All elections covered by this rule shall be determined by a simple majority.

d) Any member who is disloyal to ASLEF's interests by opposing official ASLEF candidates in elections, or a member of another railway trade union, who is also a member of ASLEF, who stands in an election on behalf of another railway trade union against an official ASLEF candidate, shall render themselves to disciplinary  action under Rule 17.

e) Branch or individual ballot papers must be forwards to and arrive at the election email address not later than the date determined by the Executive Committee. This date shall normally be no less than 40 days after the issue of the ballot papers.

f) Branch ballot papers must show the meeting date, show a mover and seconder of the nominee(s) and be signed by either the branch chair or secretary or in their absence by their elected deputies. The name of the non-signing chair or secretary must also be shown for additional transparency. Although not mandatory, branch ballot papers should bear the branch stamp if available.

g) Branch or individual ballot papers must be returned to the election email address shown on the form and clearly marked for the election that is being voted on.

h) The scrutineers shall be two members of the Executive Committee appointed by the Executive Committee and one Officer of the union.

i) The scrutineers shall collate all branch and individual papers received to the election email address. They must then prepare and submit a report to the Executive Committee setting out the names of branches voting not voting disqualified and the numbers of individual votes recorded and disqualified. If the report of the scrutineers is adopted by the Executive Committee, they will direct the General Secretary to circulate the report in full to all branches.

j) In an election where these temporary election procedures apply, no branch, member or members may issue or cause to be issued any circular, letter or other material seeking support for a candidate in an election for any office without previously received the sanction of the General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary, or President of the Executive Committee.

k) Branch Officers and/or other member or members who have acted contrary to these temporary procedures will be liable to disciplinary action by the Executive Committee under Rule 17.

3. All other ASLEF positions 

Vacancies for these positions shall be filled by the Executive Committee on a temporary basis until normal elections procedures are able to be reinstated and completed.