Covid-19: International Rail Staff Control Measures

Rail organisations around the world have responded to the Coronavirus pandemic in a variety of ways. Here we share RSSB knowledge and provide an overview of the various control measures that have been implemented to protect rail staff. The international control measures were identified by the International Union of Railways (UIC) Covid-19 task force and have been summarised here with their permission. 

As the government begins to relax guidelines, the GB rail industry will be expected to return to normal operations in due course. Rail organisations are beginning to put in place measures to help control further spread of Covid-19 and protect their workforce. 

The information shared here aims to inform existing control measures through the consideration of international practices implemented to protect rail staff. The page begins with a look at the more general principles used to protect all staff and is then followed by controls that are more relevant to specific job roles. 

Details of the international control measures put in place to protect passengers can be found here. RSSB can provide support and advice on implementing control measures, through a new service created to support members conduct risks assessments. RSSB is also helping industry through a range of groups, including: the Covid-19 Joint Executive Oversight Team (JEOT), the Rail Delivery Group Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum (RDG RICF) and various risk groups. 

  • General measures and principles

    The general measures and principles that relate to all rail staff and differences seen between countries. 

    • Social distancing rules: current World Health Organisation guidance states a distance of 1 metre should be maintained between individuals to prevent the spread of the virus. The social distance rules used by countries for railway operations varies between 1 to 2 metres. A number of countries have opted for a 1 metre rule, for example: China, France, Italy and Norway. The majority of countries have opted for 1.5 metres, for example: Australia, Denmark, Poland, Turkey and Greece. Other countries have opted for a 2 metre rule, for example: the UK, Canada, Switzerland and Lithuania. 
    • Rules on wearing masks and the different types of masks: there seems to be differing decisions on whether wearing masks at all times should be mandatory. The most common approach is to encourage staff to wear masks at all times but make it mandatory to wear masks when social distancing cannot be achieved. However, some countries (e.g. Lithuania) that have mandated that staff wear masks at all times in the workplace. In general, there are three different types of masks provided to rail staff which is role dependent, these are: FFP2/N95 masks, surgical masks and cloth face masks.  
    • Tracing and tracking Covid-19 staff cases: once an infected member of staff has been identified, tracing and then tracking will help to identify individuals who they might have had contact with whilst carrying the virus. Most countries do not have measures in place to trace and then track infected members of staff, however, a few countries have implemented such measures. In Canada, a staff member who shows symptoms or is tested positive for Covid-19 will have their activity traced back to the previous 5 days. Phone calls or emails are then made to the people (customers or staff) who might have been in contact with the infected staff member. Japan has also implemented a similar approach but traces staff behaviour for the past 14 days. 
  • Control room staff

    The international control measures implemented to protect control room staff include: 

    • Temperature checks: several countries have implemented temperature checks for control staff upon arrival. For example, in Spain personnel in control rooms must pass a temperature check every time they enter the building. The aim of the temperature check is to identify any individuals who are infected with the virus. 
    • Social distancing: many countries have put in place strict measures to ensure their staff adhere to rules on social distancing. In the Netherlands, control rooms are supplied with stickers to encourage staff to follow their 1.5 metre rule on social distancing. For the control rooms that are too small to respect social distancing guidelines, the Netherlands have installed divider screens to separate staff. Desk dividers have also been installed in Belgium. 
    • Air disinfectants: in Russia, air disinfectants (ultraviolet bactericidal irradiators-recirculators) have been installed at their Transportation Control Centers.  
  • Maintenance staff

    The international control measures implemented to protect maintenance staff include:

    • Cleaning and sanitation: most counties have increased their cleaning and sanitation regimes in maintenance centres. Canada have increased the frequency of cleaning and sanitation, and specifically targets high frequency touch areas. 
    • Masks: it is widespread practice for companies to provide their employees with masks. In Germany, every effort is made to ensure that maintenance staff who work within their 1.5 metre social distancing rule are provided with personal protection that covers the nose and mouth. 
    • Adapting shift patterns: countries across the world are continuing to communicate the importance of maintenance staff maintaining the social distancing rules whenever possible. To minimise contact with other individuals, some countries have rearranged shift patterns for their maintenance staff. This is evident in Spain where shifts have been rearranged to minimise the interaction between independent teams. In Germany small teams (of up to 2 or 3 persons for example) have been created consisting of the same team members, so reducing the number of interactions when changing teams.  
  • Office based staff

    The international control measures implemented to protect office-based staff (e.g. management, administrative staff, etc) include: 

    • Temperature checks: many countries have implemented temperature checks at the entrance to offices. In Italy all office-based employees must be checked via handheld contactless thermometers or walk through thermo scanners. 
    • Hand sanitisers: it is widespread practice to provide hand sanitising facilities in offices. In Turkey for example, hand sanitizing materials have been placed in areas that are visible to staff, such as at the entrance to office buildings, in corridors and near the lifts. It is common practice for cleaning wipes to be provided to employees to wipe surfaces. 
    • Social distancing: most counties have taken steps to encourage social distancing in offices spaces. In the Netherlands stickers have been applied to certain workspaces to discourage staff from using them so that staff do not sit too close to each other. One-way systems in corridors have also been implemented, along with a maximum number of people in meeting rooms and social distance floor markings near coffee machines and behind workspaces. In Belgium, contactless sign-in has been introduced, doors are left open (excluding safety doors), the use of elevators is limited, teams are rotated and where possible desks have been moved to allow for more space between desks. 
    • Cleaning ventilation filters: Russia have increased the frequency that office ventilation and air conditioning filters are cleaned. 
  • Station and on-train staff

    The international control measures implemented to protect station staff (e.g. dispatchers, gateline staff, station managers ticket office staff, etc) and on-train staff (e.g. guards, train managers, etc) include: 

    • Masks: it is widespread practice to provide station and on-train staff with facial masks. In Greece where the social distance rule of 1.5 metres is not possible the use of masks is mandatory for staff on-train and in ticket offices. In Germany, the type of mask provided to staff is defined by a risk assessment of the workplace. Surgical masks tend to be provided to on-train and station staff who are at risk of working within their 1.5 metre social distancing rule.  In Austria, frontline staff are provided with FFP2 masks when dealing with passengers who are displaying symptoms. 
    • Hand sanitisers: most counties provide their staff with hand sanitisers in commonly used spaces such as canteens, sign in desks, etc. In Hungary, train operators equip their on-train staff with personal hand sanitiser dispensers in portable packs. Spain provide station staff with personal protection kits which includes hand sanitisers as well as masks and gloves. 
  • Train drivers

    The international control measures implemented to protect train drivers include: 

    • Cleaning and sanitation: to prevent the spread of the virus from objects to persons, it is important that high frequency touch areas such as train cabs are kept clean. Many counties have increased their cleaning regimes of train cabs. For example, in Lithuania the frequency that the cab is cleaned and disinfected has increased. They also provide their drivers with additional disinfectants to wipe the cab before use. 
    • Reducing variation in train units: Spain has taken steps to minimise the number of train units that a driver has to drive during a shift.
    • Temperature checks: In Poland, dispatchers measure the temperature of train drivers using distance thermometers. 
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