COVID-19 risk assessment for driving instructors
The latest figures June 21 show that 1 in 1,100 people have the virus. This is within England. This means the chances of ‘meeting’ someone with the virus is 1 in 1,100 and getting better all the time. It does not mean that that’s the chance of getting the virus and the following looks at reducing the chances of if you do meet someone, reducing the risk of catching it.
For driving instructors this means we need to see a lot of people before we even meet someone with the virus however, we need to stay alert as statistics are a strange thing. You might meet someone on your first lesson or not until 3,000 people and like busses, 2 might come along at once.
The is a lot of advice on the government website for risk assessing and I am in no way advocating anything myself but the following would be my take and risk assessment on the subject.
The object of a risk assessment is to identify any risk, what the risk means and to look at where reasonable you can reduce or remove these risks.
Albeit the risk of meeting someone with the virus is small, there are certain initial steps we need to consider. For most, catching the COVID-19 would be little more than a mild cold to flu like symptoms however if you are in one of the higher risk brackets, then it could prove worse.
We need to assess the risk to ourselves first. Over 65 and whilst the risk of meeting someone is still relatively small, the effects it could have on you could prove a lot worse. The same said for many health conditions. With all the current news and guidelines, those of you in a high-risk bracket will probably already be shielding (Currently until August I believe)
Each person needs to do their own individual assessment of what it means to them.
Risk: pupils turning up with the infection
My first call would be health screening. Messaging pupils before each lesson to ask if they have any cold like or high temperature symptoms.
The school policy previous of 48hrs notice will not apply. This is to reduce the risk where practical and stop pupils from coming to lessons with symptoms purely because they think they will be charged.
Pupils who identify as having symptoms should not do lessons but re-book in 14 days time.
Action: Do not allow pupils to simply jump in the car. As a school we will add that pupils will need to wait to be invited into the car. I would suggest meeting them outside and doing any pre-lesson chat outside. This chat would include checking for health problems. Any homework or lesson planning such as Q&A before the driving could take place outside. This can give you a chance to also see for yourself if you feel the pupil has any health issues. How do they look? Normal, hot, a cold. Are they responding to questions? 1st 4 Driving Pupils will now have the advantage of the 1st 4 Driving System. This will mean pupils will have had the opportunity to review lesson briefings from the comfort of their home (or on a bus for that matter). If they have, some Q&A to check understanding will help.
Risk: Proximity to pupils
It goes without saying that as driving instructors, you are in very close proximity to your pupils and as such cannot stay outside the 2 metre rule or for that matter a 1 Metre with mitigation rule so additional steps will need to be considered.
The Gov.UK website talks of sitting side-by-side not face-to-face and increasing ventilation where possible. This means windows open where practical. There has been talks of ‘wind deflectors’ that can be attached to windows during light rain to help maintain open windows. The HSE website has said that the risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace is extremely low. Therefore, I would not worry if the weather means that an open window is not possible.
Ensure regular cleaning of the vehicle in particularly between pupils. Do not driving instructors do this anyway? Sweaty seat syndrome from my guide I published years ago talks about wiping down the seats etc. My favourite was the then Tesco lemon anti-bacterial wipes (other brands are available). Today we may need a stronger wipe recommended for the eradication of the virus. A quick wipe down of all the surfaces paying attention to the main parts such as steering wheel, door handles, parking brake and the gear lever for example.
I would do a clean as soon as the pupil leaves you to minimise the time you could potentially come in contact with any left over bugs. I would use gloves for the cleaning and consider a face covering to prevent the flicking up and disturbing of germs lying on a surface. It seems the virus can sit on plastic for a while so pay attention to how you clean. Imagine you are wiping away something that you could flick in the air. Remove face coverings if use and masks by GENTLY FOLDING AWAY from you while outside the vehicle and place in a sealed container. Now these are extreme cautions only, remember the chances are small but this is risk assessment. This is something you can do.
I would do another mini clean outside the new pupils hose too. This is partly re-assurance to the new pupil. Many years ago, I worked in the pub trade, If I used the bathroom, I would wash my hands in the bathroom so customers saw me wash my hands. I would wash my hands again in the bar, so those customers saw me wash my hands. I would never want anyone thinking ‘he hasn’t washed his hands’
Speaking with most instructors, I would agree that this cleaning routine will take a few minutes, not eh 60-90 minutes I am seeing some suggest.
Wearing of face coverings. This is down to personal choice for you and a pupil. There are implications with some pupils not hearing clearly and therefore a possible risk. There are further implications in them not being worn correctly, causing people to touch their faces more often due to them being uncomfortable and the safe removal. I stress this is down to personal choice and may have many ‘comforting’ advantages in helping people feel safer.
I am personally not sure about, I am no expert so don’t go shouting on Facebook Dave say’s LOL but from what I hear, germs like plastic and gloves can cause irritation and hot hands. I think this is again down to your choice and making your own minds up. Everything I read and all the research I do suggests that there is no substitute better than good hand washing or alcohol wipes if hand washing not available.
Plastic seat covers
I’ve heard some talk about plastic seat covers, well remember what I said about sweaty hands, well this could be worse. I have this issue with plastic anything. I would have thought the cleaning ritual could include a wipe down of the seats with an anti-bacterial wipe and be far more efficient.
Covering arms and legs
There have been suggestions about covering arms and legs and this would seem prudent. Apparently, the virus does not sit on the surface of cloth like it does plastic and this can help. There is little evidence to suggesting how long it can live on clothes, but evidence suggests up to nine days on plastic although it has declined in strength long before that sufficiently to be of any real harm.
1st 4 Driving supplies pupils with their own progress record card and appointments and I would suggest this is not handled by the instructor. The instructor has their own record and I am looking as a school on how this can be completed electronically. Don’t swap pens if you have to use them but give one to the pupil, let them keep it. 1st 4 driving pupils are given pens when the join and we will emphasise they might need to bring it.
Encourage advance payments options where possible. Pupils can call and pay the office. I am going to look at pushing the discounting on block lessons more to encourage advance payments.
Plotting routes so that opportunity to wash hands can be maximised – but still direct learners to wash hands before entering the vehicle.
Additionally, with route planning, it might be wise to ascertain where the toilet facilities are and how to access them. You may need to queue in places, and many might be closed.
I have mentioned in the early part of this that you need to consider your own personal risk. There may be times you yourself feel ill and you need to consider this. We can at office level re-schedule lessons for you should it become necessary.
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.