Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum - Rail Service Risks (UPDATE)

Our Ref: HSR/1/3 Head Office Circular: NP/107 13th May 2020 To: The Secretary ALL BRANCHES ALL REGIONAL COUNCILS

Dear Colleague,


Further to Head Office Circular NP/105/20, dated 10th May 2020, your National Executive Committee has instructed me to issue a further briefing to all Train Operating Company, Network Rail and Transport for London/ London Underground Ltd RMT representatives. The briefing is issued as Guidance to the Rail Industry’s document: “Principles for Managing the Risk of Exposure to COVID 19 to Passengers and Employees Across the GB Mainline Rail Industry.” This document was previously distributed to Branches and Regional Councils via Head Office Circular NP/103/20, 7th May 2020.

RMT Lead Officers are being instructed to organise teams of appropriate representatives to engage with each employer through the machinery and to oversee and approve the design of SSOW that cover all areas of railway operation in a way that minimises the risks to worker and passenger health. However it should be remembered that the risks to worker health and safety will need to include non-public operations and workplaces including depots, signalling locations and offices.

Following further debate the National Executive Committee have adopted the following position that our representatives must hold to in any discussions with the employers. RMT believe this is the best way to protect the health and safety of our members and the travelling public:

  • Ensure any arrangements are based on rail passenger usage being limited to 20% as per the RICF Principles document.
  • Social distancing must remain in place at 2m.
  • If there are essential tasks that must be carried out where 2m is not possible then agreed mitigations must be in place. 
  • In regard to the provision of surgical-type masks, in many areas, especially in engineering functions and depots, agreed mitigations to the 2m rule are already in place. In such situations surgical-type masks can provide mutual assurance between wearers that the spread of the infection may by limited by their use if worn by those in proximity to each other. Where such agreements are in place and representatives and members are satisfied with their operation, the arrangements can continue.
  • The purpose of the RMT advice, above, is to avoid inadequate PPE being used by employers as mitigation for an inability to maintain 2m social distancing as a result of unmanageable passenger numbers or demands to run an unmanageable level of service.
  • Surgical-type masks are not themselves protection from infection and are not mitigation for any failure to implement 2m social distancing.
  • In other situations there may be a need for further protection where consideration must be given to Personnel Protective Equipment that is of a standard that is designed to protect the worker such as face masks (FFP3 or equivalent), visors and gloves. Such situations may include, but are not limited to, working on gatelines, providing passenger assistance and interaction with passengers on board trains.
  • Social distancing must be possible in staff areas after any increase in services
  • Members must be advised of any specific local/company level problems and clear advice given on specific applications of worksafe/refusal to work process.
  • Representatives should be advised to adopt these principles in any discussions they are having with employers. Further, representatives should seek to issue specific advice to members in their constituencies about how local arrangements being implemented by employers meet these principles.
  • Our representatives are to be fully engaged in risk assessments to be carried out prior to any proposed increase in services and staffing levels.

A full copy of the RMT Guidance and the related RICF documents are attached to this Circular. You will be advised of any developments in this matter. Please bring the contents of this Circular to the urgent attention of all members and representatives.

Yours sincerely  


Mick Cash

General Secretary