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Sunday, August 9, 2020

O’Neill & Brennan keeping the rail workforce safe from COVID-19

As the world slowly returns to normal, and the lockdown eases, more and more people are returning to work.

Those who can, will still largely be working from home. But those that can’t, which includes everyone working on rail construction projects ‘on the tracks’, have no option but to return to site, try to stay alert and stay safe.

However, it is only natural that, once engrossed in a task, people’s awareness of what’s around them tend to fade away. That’s why railway work sites have safety marshals – controllers of site safety and the like – to keep a lookout and make sure anyone who is drifting into an unsafe area is warned and returned to safety.

COVID-19 is no different from any other risk at work. Safety rules are in place, workers are trained and encouraged to abide by them, but safety marshals (in this case COVID-19 marshals) have to be on the lookout for anyone bending the rules and putting themselves and colleagues at risk.

The rules are complex.  Distancing is the first requirement (currently two metres but that could change to one and a half or even one metre – different countries have different theories). If distancing is not possible, then face coverings are required. If interacting with a lot of people, then a face shield may be needed.

In the same way that safety marshals need to be trained, tested, certified and accredited, so too should Covid marshals. But what training do they need?  And who will accredit the course and the certificate of competence?

Safety solutions

Established in 1990, O’Neill & Brennan is a dedicated recruitment solutions business. It has the industry knowledge and experience to deliver a full logistics and recruitment solution, for projects of significant size and scale as well as smaller projects in remote locations. Its industry accreditations, awards and certifications demonstrate the quality of its work.

In rail, O’Neill & Brennan is a RISQS Accredited supplier of Track Labour, PTS Civil Trades and Professional and Technical personnel. With an experienced and dedicated team in place, it understands the complexities and demanding nature of the rail industry and how integral health and safety is, which is why it is proud of the many rail specific accreditations it has that reinforce the commitment it holds towards its staff, the quality of its work, safety management and the environment.

Due to its reputation for safety, O’Neill & Brennan has, over the last couple of months, been receiving numerous requests for assistance with social distancing protocols and procedures.

The company also operates in Ireland and the Construction Industry Federation there has mandated that every site must have a COVID-19 supervisor, with the back up of COVID-19 marshals where the numbers on site dictate.

This requirement provided the impetus to develop a training course to train suitable people to act as COVID-19 Marshals in the UK. O’Neill & Brennan’s experts pioneered and developed a new training course – the first of its kind to be accredited.

It should be of considerable assistance in managing your responsibilities in the prevention of a COVID-19 outbreak onsite.

Responsibilities under RIDDOR

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) has now ruled that, in some circumstances, exposure to COVID-19 is reportable under RIDDOR. In making such a report, the employer must decide whether there is reasonable evidence linking the nature of the person’s work with an increased risk of becoming exposed to coronavirus.

Factors to be taken into account when making this decision could include:

  • Whether or not the nature of the person’s work activities increased the risk of them becoming exposed to coronavirus;
  • Whether or not there was any specific, identifiable incident that led to an increased risk of exposure;
  • Whether or not the person’s work directly brought them into contact with a known coronavirus hazard without effective control measures, as set out in the relevant PHE guidance, in place such as personal protective equipment (PPE) or social distancing.

Employers are therefore asking whether they should have all sites and projects fully COVID-19 compliant. O’Neill & Brennan’s COVID-19 Compliance Marshal Qualification course, which is accredited and certificated by the ETA (Engineering Training Awards – an awarding organisation for the certification of both regulated qualifications and accredited training), has been designed as a bespoke product to assist employers in ensuring that their projects are compliant with all new legislation and government guidelines associated with this challenge.

The position of COVID-19 compliance marshal, who will be present on site during all working hours, will cover numerous proactive and reactive duties designed to assist the site management team with COVID-19 spread prevention, management and the monitoring of all site procedures implemented to deal with this issue on an ongoing basis.

Proactive duties include working to prevent the spread of COVID-19, conducting regular audits, checking signage, site cleanliness and the availability of handwashing facilities, and, of course, monitoring all site activities to ensure social distancing and hygiene levels are maintained.

Reactive measures include dealing with any instances on site where an individual is displaying symptoms or has been confirmed with COVID-19, isolating an individual with symptoms, following site protocols and assisting in tracing contacts should there be a confirmed case.

All of the above duties and responsibilities are covered within the course and the individual would be an integral and valuable member of all project site teams, as the rail industry begins to re-open those sites where work was suspended and attempts to get people back to work in a safe and controlled environment.

O’Neill & Brennan has built up an exemplary HSQE record over 27 years of trading. Using this experience, and  under the guidance of Colin Gears, head of QHSE, the company has developed its COVID-19 Compliance Marshal Qualification course, which it is making available to both its own staff and those of other civil engineering contractors throughout the rail industry.  It’s hard to see why companies wouldn’t put their staff through the course.

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