To reinforce the correct safe working methods for collecting Covid-19/Coronavirus testing kits, a new joint CWU/RM/PFWW Poster and Leaflet have been jointly produced. These have been sent out to all managers this week, commencing Monday 8th February with a request to display the poster where appropriate and give a copy of the one-page leaflet/guidance document to collections employees who complete this task.
The issue of ‘non-compliant’ test kit collections from designated post boxes has come to light in several locations across the UK and the Health, Safety and Environment Department has been raising concerns in relation to the problem, especially in view of the rapidly increasing numbers of kits being collected now that Royal Mail has the sole Government contract as Government steps up it national testing programme.
This issue has been subject to ongoing debate on the RM/CWU National Joint Covid-19 Test Kits Weekly Strategic Involvement Skype meetings where the problem has been raised several times.
The Royal Mail Test Kits Project Team nationally are as concerned about compliance as are CWU/HQ.
As a result, a joint review took place which concluded a revised Safe System of Work (SSoW) and joint communications package including a joint leaflet and joint poster. These have been designed to deal with the increasing volumes within the new contract. The materials have been dispatched to all offices, supporting previous communications and an earlier campaign in 2020.
The second issue regarding the size of the bags making ‘overbagging’ tight and awkward has been raised with Royal Mail also and noted – so future orders will involve a slightly bigger bag being procured and supplied to Collections staff.
In the meantime, we must continue to drive home the importance of compliance to our members and to the collections managers whose job it is to monitor the safe collections.
There is sufficient flexibility in the revised SSoW with three options to clear designated boxes and that should be sufficient to complete the task safely if applied correctly.
To meet the demand for Coronavirus infection testing this winter the Government has asked Royal Mail Group to prepare for the expected significant increase in the number of test kits returned via Priority Post Boxes. Subsequently test kit requests and returns have significantly increased and Royal Mail is currently collecting circa 150,000 test kits a day. The amended collection and segregation SSoW process has been designed to deal with clearing large quantities of test kits from ‘Designated Post Boxes’ in a simplified, safer way.
Collecting Coronavirus COVID-19 Sample Test Kits from a Post Box – Revised Process
- Collection staff will open the post box as per normal process and scan the barcode.
- Firstly, they’ll look to identify any COVID-19 sample kits in the box from either the purple address label or purple Covid 19 test kit label and the UN3373 mark on the back.
- When emptying post boxes they’ll visually check for any leaking packages and ifany are found they’ll follow the specific instructions in the SSoW.
- Each test kit is to be bagged in a secondary polythene bag to minimise any risk of contamination. This is done by turning the polythene bag inside out and pulling it over the test kit without contacting it with the hands. The SSoW has illustrations on this. If staff find it easier they can wear gloves for this, but they are not essentialor required.
- The test kits are then placed in a T24 tray or in a mail bag and labelled ‘kits’. The tray/bag is then placed in the van so that they can be segregated and bagged easily when they reach the collection hub or mail centre/plant.
- If the post box is in a busy area for pedestrians or traffic or poorly lit and it would be safer etc., the collection staff, wearing gloves, can separate the test kits into a T24 tray, then take the tray to the van and over-bag them at the van.
- In cases where the post box is filled with significant volumes of test kits and where it’s not safe or practical, the collections staff can empty the post box into a separate mail bag as per a normal collection from a post box, label and isolate the bag and the test kits can then be segregated, re-bagged and labelled upon return to the collection hub or mail centre/plant, ready for the dedicated, onward despatch to the destination lab.
- The kits must be over-bagged before handing over to the next part of the pipeline and under no circumstances should a kit travel un-bagged to the tracked work area in a mail centre.
- All kits should be bagged at the earliest opportunity.
- Gloves should be disposed of in the rubbish bag and hands washed or cleaned with sanitising gel or disinfectant wipes.
Collecting COVID-19 Sample Kits from Home Collections
- The customer will have taken their swab sample and assembled the packaging and wiped the outside of the outer packaging ready for collection.
- The collections staff member will knock on the door and move back at least 2 metres.
- Ask the customer to place the parcel outside the door, check with them that they have cleaned the outer packaging.
- When the door has closed collect the parcel.
- If the outer packaging is not correctly sealed or is damaged the sample should not be collected and the customer/owner advised to order a new test kit.
- The test kit will be over-bagged as described for pillar box collections.
- The item is scanned and placed in a tray or bag.
- Hand over the COVID-19 sample kits separately on arrival at the mail centre.
- If at any stage the collections members feel threatened or unsafe or in danger, they can walk away from the doorstep, leaving the test kit parcel. The Police (if required) can then be informed and the Security Helpdesk notified via the manager.
- New Covid-19/Coronavirus Test Kits – Reinforcing Safe Collections – Safety Leaflet and Poster: