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The first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic was a steep learning curve for all employers, but in particular bus and train companies. Firms had to manage the sudden drop-off in passenger numbers alongside risk managing employee health and return to work. OH support was critical, explains Dr Mark Hall.
When Covid-19 first became prevalent in the UK in early 2020, its presence within the population was initially insidious but, by spring, the effects of the infection had wide reaching consequences for many sectors of the economy, including transport.
Train and bus companies responded rapidly to government advice but in different ways as they sought to balance the safeguarding of employees with providing a service to the public.
Not since the days of British Rail (1948-1997) have train companies been nationalised but they virtually become so as passenger numbers quickly collapsed (currently 10-20% from pre-Covid-19 days).
This continues to be the position to date (the beginning of 2021) as they remain heavily reliant on government subsidies to provide a public service, which has cost the government between £10.5bn to £12.5bn and counting so far.
As each company struggled to provide a service, they each took different approach to safeguard their employees and public.
This article intends to look at some of the different responses to the Covid risk by several rail and bus companies during the first wave from March onwards to July 2020.
Clearly, the second and third waves of infection that the UK experienced over the autumn and winter led to further challenges but, for the purposes of this article, I am solely going to examine the response to the first wave when the learning curve about the virus was the steepest.
As most occupational health practitioners will by now be well aware, Covid-19 infection can occur in all age groups but its severity and death rate is highly related to age and associated with underlying health conditions.
The illness therefore particularly affected the non-working population (those aged 70+) although the consequences of the pandemic of course had