Network Rail - Coronavirus Covid-19 Provision of surgical masks

Head Office Circular NP/088/20
File Ref: HSR/1/3
17th April 2020
The Secretary

Dear Colleague


Following pressure from RMT to government and to the employers Network Rail have now agreed that they are going to provide facemasks for use by workers in certain specific circumstances. Similar work and supply is being done by the TOCs and FOCs.

• Despite the supply of facemasks it must be stressed the importance of social distancing, hand washing and hand hygiene in preventing spread of Coronavirus – Covid-19. These remain the primary controls for Coronavirus – Covid-19.
• Masks are only for use where the company can’t maintain social distancing for operational reasons and for tasks that require workers to work closer than 2 metres. Masks will give additional protection if used properly.
• Network Rail believe that there is still important work that needs to go on to maintain and renew the rail network, work that can’t be put off until after the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Some tasks already require PPE face masks. Workers should carry on wearing PPE issue face masks when the task requires it.
• If your task would not normally require a face mask, and it means you have to be within 2 metres, please wear a surgical face mask.
Why wear a mask?
• There are different views as to how effective these masks are. They may have a role to play in preventing people from spreading corona virus before they realise that they have it.
The most important things to do to combat Coronavirus are:
• social distancing – which means we must all keep more than 2 metres apart wherever possible, and should travel in separate vehicles, or in a vehicle with a divider between front and back.
• Regular hand washing, before during and after your shift, using hand sanitiser and wipes if you cannot access hot water and soap
• Coughing/sneezing into your elbow
• Not coming to work if you are showing any of the symptoms.
How to use the masks
Management will provide the correct routine to be adopted when putting on, removing and disposing of facemasks.
• Key points are, if a task can be done with social distancing, no mask is required (unless it’s a task requiring regular PPE mask)
• If within 2 metres, then use a mask.  Spend as little time as possible closer than 2 metres
• When task complete move away 
• If your mask gets damp, replace it with another
• Try not to touch your face while wearing the mask
• When finished using mask, put in a plastic bag (these should be with the masks when delivered) and then put that bag into another bag, tie it, and store it for 72 hours. After that it can go into the normal rubbish.
• Masks are single use - do not put in your pocket and use the next night. 
• It cannot be stressed often enough that social distancing is our first measure of control to keep other workers safe
• But where this isn’t possible masks can be used. But they MUST be used properly. Otherwise there is a danger that they will increase rather than decrease risk to colleagues. Network Rail will be monitoring how they are used and discussing this with the RMT.
• The company have also briefed the RMT that they are also looking to procure a significant number of face visors as well. These could be available towards the end of next week. If a supply is procured you will receive a separate brief on their use as well when that time comes.
In the last 2 weeks the company have sent out 23k bottles of 50ml hand sanitizer across the regions and 13k bottles of 500ml are on their way out to DUs.
Key points to emphasise:
• Social distancing is the most important thing we can do along with hand washing and hygiene
• Using a face masks is a last resort, only when working at less than 2 metres
• Face masks protect others, not the user, from infection. So use a mask for mutual assurance when working within two meters. If all workers wear a mask they will provide mutual assurance to each other as a defence against the spread of the virus.

RMT members should be advised to report any problems with mask including, supply issues or use issues to their RMT representative who should then forward details to Head Office. Members should also be advised that if they ever feel what they are being requested to do so compromises their safety then they should invoke the company’s worksafe procedure.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary