Minimising the risk of exposure to COVID-19 coronavirus for public transport including taxis and rideshare services

The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 requires employers to take care of the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This includes:

  • providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety; and
  • adequate facilities for workers in carrying out their work.

As an employer, you must identify risks at the workplace, and where practicable remove or minimise those risks.

The relatively confined spaces and limited ventilation of public transport, taxi and rideshare services increases the risk of workers and passengers being exposed to the COVID-19 virus. In these circumstances the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus cannot be completely eliminated. However, employers must do all that they can to minimise that risk so far as reasonably practicable.

Managing the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 virus

Social distancing

One way to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to limit the interaction between passengers and workers. Practical measures to encourage social distancing include:

  • Limit passenger capacity in buses, ferries, trams and trains. This can be achieved by
    • calculating the safe number of travellers per bus or train and the positions in which they should sit in that vehicle; and
    • providing extra services during peak times or where data indicates there is a high level of patronage.
  • Allocating pre-booked seats to maximise social distancing, where possible.
  • For taxis and rideshare services, require passengers to sit in the back seat. Open the windows for more ventilation.
  • Encourage passengers to socially distance themselves on platforms, when using escalators and lifts and when queueing to board. Ask passengers on the platform or station to stand well back until all passengers have disembarked.
  • Create floor markings that provide minimum guide distances between passengers.
  • Encourage passengers to travel outside of peak times.
  • Alter the way passengers enter and exit the vehicle. For example:
    • require passengers to board only through the rear door to minimise exposure to the driver; or
    • require passengers to enter and exit through separate doors.
  • Re-consider the need for ticket inspectors or to reduce the number of locations they visit during this time. 

Hygiene 

Environmental cleaning

The amount of time the COVID-19 virus survives on inanimate objects and surfaces will vary. Environmental cleaning is another way to remove the virus.

Usual cleaning regimes should be increased.

Frequently touched surfaces such as doors, handrails, windows and vending machines should be cleaned and disinfected frequently using appropriate detergent and disinfectant solutions.

To minimise the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus the cleaner should wear gloves and use alcohol based hand sanitiser before and after wearing gloves. See the Department of Health information sheet on environmental cleaning and disinfection-principles for COVID-19 for further information.

Drivers and other customer service staff should be equipped and trained in the ability to remove waste safely and disinfect surfaces during their shift.

Worker and passenger hygiene

Workers should be required to practice good hygiene, including:

  • frequent hand washing;
  • limiting contact with others, including through shaking hands; and
  • covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing.

Washroom facilities for passengers and workers should have adequate facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper. These must be kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.

Workers at high volume stations and platforms should also have access to hand sanitiser.

Employers should also consider reducing the number of touch points for passengers and workers. For example, leaving access doors open where appropriate or eliminating cash handling.

Do drivers and customer service staff require face shields, marks or other personal protective equipment?

General COVID-19 information on surgical masks and who should use surgical masks has been published by the Australian Department of Health. Current advice from the Department of Health is that surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading the COVID-19 virus. Surgical masks are not currently recommended for healthy members of the public to prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

If a worker may come into close contact with suspected or confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease (e.g customer service), employers must put in place control measures to eliminate or minimise the risk of a worker contracting the virus so far as reasonably practicable.

Risk management may involve the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves and face masks. However, PPE must not be the only control measure that employers consider. By itself PPE will not control the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

PPE should supplement higher level control measures. For example:

  • install screens where possible for drivers;
  • encourage customer service staff to stay behind information booths or desks or where not available, to maintain a sufficient distance from passengers;
  • limit the use of money handling by encouraging passengers to use transport smart cards (e.g.Transperth’s SmartRider card) or to use EFTPOS in taxis and, where workers must handle money, provide them with disposable gloves or hand sanitiser. For further information about PPE including additional employer obligations can be found in the Code of Practice – Personal protective clothing and equipment.

Keep workers and passengers informed

Employers should inform all workers about the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Where required workers should be trained in infection control.

Passengers should also be informed about the risk of exposure and good hygiene through increased signage and information. The Australian Government Department of Health has a range of posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about COVID-19. These posters can be placed around platforms and in trains, buses and taxis. 

Consultation and communicating with workers

You should consult with workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19. Allow workers to express views before you make any decisions.

Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work. Involving them will help build worker commitment to this process and any changes.

The Guidance note - Formal consultative processes at the workplace can provide more information about your duties to consult.

Communicate clearly with workers about control measures. Provide clear direction and guidance about what is expected of workers.

Workers should know:

  • when to stay away from the workplace;
  • what action to take if they become unwell; and
  • what symptoms to be concerned about.

Remind workers they have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of others.

Provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns, and access to support services, including employee assistance programs.

Further information

For general advice for employers on managing risks to exposure to the COVID-19 virus see Safe Work Australia Coronavirus-COVID-19 advice for employers.

For further information on risk management, see the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks.

WorkSafe
Information
Last updated 09 Apr 2020

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