Returning to the Logistics Workplace? What employers need to know

For our new wellbeing podcast series, the Talent in Logistics team recently caught up with Mike Hayward, Partner and Head of Crime and Regulatory at Woodfines Solicitors, which specialises in cases involving the road transport and logistics sectors.

The podcast, which you can listen to in full here, discusses the duty of employers to review their policies and procedures during these unprecedented times and what businesses need to know as their employees return to work.

Read on to find out some of the key takeaways from our discussion with Mike.

What steps do you think need to be taken by employers when re-integrating their teams into the workplace?

Mike Hayward: Everything here will depend on the size and type of business, and how it is organised, managed, and regulated. Whatever sector you work within, there will be regulatory bodies giving specific guidance, so it is important to start there.

I urge employers not to panic. Look at the core, fundamental legal requirements (largely set by the health and safety at work regulations) which say that every business has a duty of care to those that come into their businesses as visitors or workers. Although we are all adapting to the world with Covid-19, let’s keep track of some of the fundamental safeguards that have to be in place. That’s carrying out certain risk assessments and making sure that you’re thinking: what we can do to achieve best practice? What can we do to ensure that our staff and visitors are safe?

You can only do your best. And one of the things that I would certainly advise businesses on, is to keep note of the measures taken. The Health and Safety Executive and the Government are talking about trying to take reasonable steps to achieve best practice, rather than this being set in law.

It’s about managing risk, but also about talking to your staff about what they feel is important, and the ideas they have to improve or to mitigate the chances of infection.

Are there any specific workplace policies/procedures that may need a review as they will now be inaccurate in light of the pandemic?

MH: Yes, so this is a really important opportunity to review all of those policies and handbooks! Use this time as an opportunity to look at the procedures and processes you already have in place, refresh them and, where you can, apply the Covid-19 guidance from the Health and Safety Executive and the Government.

Ensure that these changes are communicated to teams effectively. Share your updated risk assessments so people are knowledgeable about the changes made, even if they are working from home. You may want to set up “toolbox talks”, whether remotely or in the workplace (with social distancing) giving updates to the staff as to what your expectations are, and what measures you are putting in place. Also, to keep a record when you communicate this to your teams. Include when it took place, who attended, and get people to confirm that they read the instructions (get signatures if you can). It’s all about the documentation showing the steps you are taking in order to do what you can reasonably in these circumstances.

One thing that’s important to us is people’s health and welfare. A lot of businesses are suffering financially, already on a reduced amount of people, but are now expected to put additional measures in place, with yet more downtime and expenditure in relation to infrastructure. We want to see regulators, such as the Health and Safety Executive, working closely with businesses to ensure that everybody’s doing the best that they possibly can.

Rules can be very debilitating. You can feel bogged down by the amount of guidance that’s coming through. So, step back, consider what you need to do, implement all that you can, get advice where it’s necessary, and talk it through with associations, and people around you. 

Are there are current considerations businesses need to be aware of around business travel, particularly HGV Drivers?

MH: I still find it utterly incredible to hear the stories of HGV Drivers who are unable to access basic welfare facilities at the points that they drop at. In large warehouses, for instance, the Health and Safety Executive has clearly stated that people visiting from an employment point of view, should be given access to welfare facilities. Not only is the fundamental right of somebody’s own welfare to go to the toilet, but when there’s an expectation of frequent hand-washing, those facilities must be in place.

There are also aspects to consider in relation to sharing vehicles. Some businesses are providing a situation where the vehicle is entirely cleaned and sprayed after every use. But, it’s about what is reasonable and practical. We want to encourage hand-washing and that there is a reduction in the amount of time that two people are close to one another. For example, when delivering something, that sites are told in advance, so there is sufficient space between the person taking the delivery.

We’ve also seen the temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours for certain essential deliveries. This was not a green light for anybody to drive outside of their hours. I cannot emphasize enough that nobody should be being placed under additional time pressure or in any situation where driver fatigue may set in. Let’s not lose sight of the principal basic rules that are already there for driver safety.

Let’s Celebrate the Sector!

MH: The one thing that I’d really like to emphasize is that those across the whole logistics sector have often been the forgotten heroes. We rely so heavily on everybody who works in and during this lockdown period, they have come to the fore, delivering essential goods and pharmaceuticals to the NHS, and also the food and other essentials that enable the majority of people to remain at home.

The Undersecretary of State for Roads and Transport actually said that the whole nation will owe the haulage and logistics sector a huge debt of gratitude. Keeping the supply chain going was as an unprecedented challenge, and the logistics sector faced it with outstanding dedication and professionalism. I absolutely echo those words –whether it’s the person behind the wheel of the truck or the people back in the transport operation, this has been a really mammoth task and one that everybody should be very proud of.

Enter the Talent in Logistics Awards 2020

If, like Mike, you feel that the heroes of logistics deserve recognition for the amazing work they continue to do, why not enter the Talent in Logistics 2020 Awards? It’s free to do so but entries are only open until Friday 24th July. Enter now!

And don’t forget to register to be part of our online Talent in Logistics Awards night on 1st October to celebrate the people in our sector. Book your free place now.

Listen to the Talent in Logistics Podcast

For the full podcast, including an interview with Partner and Employment Solicitor at Woodfines Maria Gallucci where we discuss the rules around Annual Leave in 2020/21, Data Privacy for Covid-19 Employee Testing and the Future after Furlough including Redundancy Protocols, click here or download now from your usual podcast platform.