Network Rail is running a Covid-19 testing pilot at five construction sites in its southern region, where high numbers of staff have been asked to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app. Part of a public sector initiative, the pilot involves daily testing of staff and means those who test negative can stay at work. Testing is voluntary and, so far, only one person has tested positive out of 300 tests carried out. Network Rail is looking to roll this out to further sites “as necessary”.
The rail operator’s existing Covid measures also remain in place at worksites across the country. These include PPE, social distancing, staggered shift times, reducing shared transport, segregation at sign-in points and one-way systems. With the introduction of the latest national lockdown, under which construction sites can remain open, Network Rail is also reviewing its risk assessments and building risk assessments for Covid controls. In addition to this, the company is exploring how staff can be supported to check ventilation rates in buildings and reviewing the building management systems that control the air condition.
Network Rail group safety, technical and engineering director Martin Frobisher said the rail operator is doing "everything" possible to protect workers. “We are doing everything we can to keep our frontline staff safe while they work to keep rail services running reliably for those passengers who need to travel, and to ensure critical goods can continue to be transport by rail freight," he said. "Passengers are urged to continue to follow government guidance by staying at home to help tackle the spread of Covid-19 and only travel if they have to.”
The Construction Leadership Council's Site Operating Procedures have also been updated to reflect the latest government guidance, with minor changes including updated guidance on self-isolation and shielding and the removal of the requirement to display a QR code in site canteens.
Railway Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan added: “Provided construction workers can work safely, taking into account the new strain of the coronavirus, the Railway Industry Association and its members support construction sites being open across the UK during this new lockdown, as construction remained open in 2020 both during previous lockdowns and through the different tiered systems. It is, of course, vital though that the industry works to ensure sites are Covid-safe for construction workers, collaborating closely with Government and clients to reduce the risk of infection.”