SWR - Covid-19 Issues - Electronic Whistles and Customer Assistance Guidance

Head Office Circular NP/194/20
5th August 2020
The Secretary

Dear Colleague


Further to Head Office Circular NP/175/20, dated 14th July 2020, in response to my letter querying the above, SWR’s “Customer Experience Director” replied to me on 15th July noting that electronic whistles have been risk assessed and consulted with RMT representatives. He believes there is nothing needed from a TOMSC deviations requirement as there is nothing in the Rule Book or RIS 3703 that specifies what a whistle should be. He confirmed that electronic whistles are not considered a communication device under the categories which are prohibited from use during the dispatch process (such a mobile phones).

It is therefore the Company’s intention to continue offering these for our colleagues to use.

With regard to customer assistance guidance, guidance has been provided from RICF in the document – RICF Updated Guidance and Principles on Social Distancing 2 July 2020.

This document details that discussions should be held and risk assessments conducted where two metres social distancing cannot be maintained in the following category:

Making reasonable adjustments for those with specific needs or protected characteristics, for example, considering specific and appropriate needs of disabled people, older people, BAME, and pregnant women.

Normally, employees should seek to maintain 2 metre distance where possible to do so when interacting with passengers. Where this is not compatible with the reintroduction of a full customer service offering with station or on-board tasks and activities then any consideration to reduce to 1 metre plus will need to be discussed and agreed as part of any local joint risk assessment process and engagement with local representatives. Consideration should be given to a temporary redesign of the activity to enable social distancing to be achieved within a safe system of work.

In recent weeks SWR has engaged in risk assessment on this activity and wider discussions with RMT representatives. The Company now feels that all options for temporary redesign of the customer assistance activity have been exhausted and has asked for the latest version of the risk assessment to be ratified by RMT representatives.

In the absence of any further comments from RMT representatives, SWR are asking colleagues to work to the latest version of this risk assessment

At its meeting on 31st July 2020, your National Executive noted and adopted the following report from its Health and Safety Sub Committee:

We note the reply on file from South Western Railway. The company’s position on electronic whistles is noted. We further note the company’s statement that “any consideration to reduce to 1 metre plus will need to be discussed and agreed as part of any local joint risk assessment process and engagement with local representatives”. Local RMT representatives will be supported by the Union should they not agree to any such assessments; furthermore, if local RMT representatives have future concerns about the temporary redesign of the customer assistance activity risk assessment, all customer service activity must stop until an acceptable risk assessment has been agreed. General Secretary is instructed to write to the company to advise them of the RMT’s position.

Branches and Regional Councils to be advised.

Members in SWR to be informed via email.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions and will keep members appraised of any developments.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary