COVID-19: working close together in vehicles and on site (8 April update)

Posted 08/04/2020 : By: Tim Ridyard

The problem encountered by many businesses is how to manage safe working where there may be specific and valid reasons for workers to be in close proximity e.g. in a hospital, on a construction site or working as a crew in a confined space e.g. a lorry cab.

Updated Public Health England (PHE) Guidance considers these problems on a sector by sector basis.

Employers must exercise their duty to ensure their staff and third parties are not exposed to COVID-19 virus risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. As with any situation a comprehensive COVID-19 risk assessment should be carried out. Then appropriate measures must be implemented that are proportionate.

The Health & Safety Executive has indicated it will take action against businesses who do not observe safe working methods: from issuing warnings to imposing enforcement notices or more.

Current Government guidance does not require home working for all employees of every business. It allows those businesses who are not required to suspend trading to continue but observe safe working practices, with home working where at all possible. If not working at home, health advice concerning distancing in the workplace must be observed.

If businesses follow the approach in the updated PHE Guidance then they will be in step with what is regarded as a reasonable and proportionate approach – within correct health and safety parameters.

We summarise a number of pointers within the road transport/logistics/waste/construction sector PHE Guidance to protect staff where close working takes place:

  • where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full concerning a particular activity, consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce risk of transmission between staff
  • advise staff to keep two metres apart as much as possible
  • if a two-metre distance cannot be maintained, staff should work side by side or face away from each other, rather than face to face if possible
  • assign staff to the same shift teams to limit social interaction; as much as possible, keep groups of workers working together in teams that are as small as possible (cohorting). E.g. keep vehicle crews working together, rather than mixing crew members on different shifts
  • plan work to minimise contact between workers and avoid skin-to-skin and face-to-face contact; where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible
  • do not allow staff to congregate in break times; consider arrangements such as staggered break times so that staff can continue to practice social distancing when taking breaks
  • put up signage and floor markings in the warehouse, encouraging a two-metre distance from colleagues where it is at all feasible
  • where staff are sharing an enclosed space, such as in refuse and waste collection vehicle cabs or lorries and are unable to maintain a two-metre distance, they should wash their hands for 20 seconds or longer before getting into, or after getting out of, the vehicle, or use hand sanitiser where handwashing is not possible
  • where it is not possible to avoid having more than one person in the vehicle, teams should keep the windows of the vehicle open for ventilation, and be careful to avoid touching the face at all times. Staff should still be advised to keep two-metres apart as much as possible
  • regularly encourage staff to wash their hands with soap and water as often as possible and for a minimum of 20 seconds every time they do this, and especially after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing, on arrival at work, before and after eating, after using public transport, and when they arrive home
  • staff should also wash their hands each time before getting into enclosed machinery (such as diggers, fork-lift trucks or crane grabbers), and wash their hands for 20 seconds or more, or use hand sanitiser when they cannot wash their hands, every time they get out
  • to help with all this, you should consider adding additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser
  • allow for frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using standard cleaning products, particularly at the end and beginning of shifts. Increase the frequency of cleaning procedures, pausing production in the day if necessary for cleaning staff to wipe down workstations with disinfectant
  • to protect staff, remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.


    All working practices should be kept under constant review. Every business should keep abreast of developments daily and adapt as required. This can be done through HSE, PHE and other Government websites and via our COVID-19 hub.

    Further advice

    We will continue to update you about developments as they arise.

    Please contact Tim Ridyard on 07484 924834 or email tim.ridyard@ashtonslegal.co.uk for individual advice for your business.

    Alternatively, if you or your business require advice or need assistance for any road transport matters, please get in touch with our specialist Road Transport team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0778.


    This information is correct at 10.00am on 8 April 2020.

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