Q: How can we make driving with co-workers and clients safer, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Thank you for the question. There are many workplaces where co-workers drive together or with clients to carry out operations and services. Many vehicles make it difficult or do not allow for physical distancing of two metres between occupants, which makes it important to first assess whether two or more co-workers, or workers and clients, need to be in a vehicle together.
If travel with two or more people in a vehicle is required, committee members can contribute to increased safety and health in three main ways:
by suggesting that a risk assessment take place to determine the level of COVID-19 risk co-workers or clients face while traveling in a vehicle together, followed by a review and update of safe work procedures — committee members can participate in the assessment, review and updates
by checking that prevention measures, including vehicle sanitation and good hygiene practices, are in place during the committee's regular inspections (see below for more information on common prevention measures), and bringing forward recommendations for improvements to your employer
by acting as a resource to co-workers about preventing the spread of COVID-19 in vehicles, including promoting safety measures that are in place to protect them, answering questions about safety processes, and bringing forward concerns from workers.
Here are some specific actions committees can take, related to common COVID-19 prevention measures:
Consider recommending to your employer that workers complete the COVID-19 symptom checklist before travelling together (remember that any recommendations should be based on your risk assessment).
Be aware of and understand your workplace's policies and protocols for wearing non-medical masks. Wear non-medical masks in work vehicles if it's recommended or required, and ensure you wear your non-medical mask properly. Be a good example for your co-workers!
Understand and practice good personal hygiene, including hand washing and proper cough etiquette. This also helps to provide a good example for your co-workers.
Review vehicle sanitation procedures to ensure they are thorough and maintain a healthy and safe environment. This includes reviewing how often the vehicle is cleaned, and whether workers must clean the vehicle prior to someone entering and after they exit, or at shift changes.
Check in with workers to determine the level of training they received on sanitization, and make sure workers are using appropriate disinfectants on surfaces, including high-touch points (like door handles, seat belts and control buttons).
Ensure hand sanitizer, tissues and wipes are available in vehicles.
Consult Transport Canada's guidelines first if your employer is considering installing barriers in vehicles (as these barriers can create additional risks).
Consider recommending that vehicle windows be opened while driving (weather permitting), and the vents of the vehicle used to bring in fresh air from outside (avoid using the recirculated air option of the vehicle).
Consider recommending that each worker have a designated seat in the vehicle to avoid sharing work areas. Or, if there are only two people in the vehicle, consider making it a requirement that the passenger sit in the back passenger side seat (if available) to maintain more distance between the passenger and the driver.
Remember that any recommendations for improvements should be provided to your employer.
Another good resource committees can use is the Transportation Advice in Manitoba's COVID-19 Restoring Safe Services guidelines, which includes information about carpooling, vehicles for hire and public transit, or consult this guideline for employees using vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic for further information and a helpful checklist.
Itoro Affia is a Prevention Consultant in the Service Portfolio at SAFE Work Manitoba.