Royal Mail Group (Royal Mail & Parcelforce) – Lifting of Covid-19 Secure Restrictions and Re-Introduction of Standard Operating Procedures/Business As Usual (SOP/BAU) – ‘Coronavirus Test Kits Collections Over-Bagging’
This LTB is being issued further to LTB No. 436/2021 issued on 12 October 2021 and LTB No. 420/21 issued on 5 October 2021. This should be read in conjunction with those LTBs and is a further update for Branches to provide clarification and to assist local discussions facilitating progression back to standard operating procedure and business as usual, through the agreed, cautious lifting of Covid-secure restrictions.
The attached Royal Mail Group communications, briefing document, Risk Assessment and Safe Systems of Work are being published and issued this week to give further definitive guidance to Managers confirming the following.
In line with the communications released by Royal Mail Group on 8th October 2021 and after careful consideration and review of safety documentation, in consultation with DHSC (Department for Health and Social Care) and HSA (Health Security Agency) – see attached letter. Royal Mail and CWU have agreed that it is no longer necessary to over-bag correctly packaged test kits following the lifting in Government Covid restrictions. Therefore, from Monday 18th October the requirement for over-bagging of test kits will be removed by Royal Mail.
The original risk assessment has been reviewed from which there are three key factors;
- Firstly, the DHSC and HSA medical and scientific experts state that over-bagging is unnecessary.
- Secondly, we are informed that less than 5% of the samples test positive.
- Thirdly, the packaging of the Test Kits meets the international UN3373 Transport Packaging standard for biological/pathological diagnostic samples including Covid-19 for sending via the post and the this includes ‘three layers’.
Royal Mail has been a key player in the collection and delivery of Covid19 test kits on behalf of the nation since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Many aspects of the coronavirus were still unknown when the national testing programme was introduced and as an added protection measure and for workforce reassurance, a polybag, over-bagging process was introduced on collections to mitigate any potential and perceived risks associated with carrying test kits. At that time, the benefits of the polybag process outweighed other issues such as the impact on processing time at the laboratory and the environmental impact of using single-use plastic for each test kit.
Whilst the polybag process has been amended, collections, processing and delivery staff can wear disposable gloves to handle test kits if they prefer to use them and feel more comfortable doing so but this is not mandatory. This is recommended for staff that have not been vaccinated or are clinically vulnerable. All staff should however maintain good hand hygiene by washing hands frequently and using hand sanitiser where washing facilities are not available. NOTE: Any damaged or incorrectly packaged kits should still be over-bagged.
In summary, the following standards must be adhered to:
- From this week, polybags are no longer required for Covid19 test kits to be ‘over-bagged’ and a new Safe System of Work has been issued to reflect this.
- As with all collection, delivery and processing work it is important to maintain good hygiene by more frequently washing hands with soap and water or use sanitiser, especially before eating, drinking, touching the face or after coughing.
- Polybags will continue to be available for use across the whole pipeline in case of damaged or incorrectly packaged items, but there is no longer a general requirement to poly-bag test kits when clearing a post-box of these items.
- Gloves are readily available for handling the test kits if staff prefer to use them.
- Changes to Coronavirus Test Kit Collections – Message from Dr Shaun Davis RMG Global Director Compliance & Sustainability – 18 October 2021
- Relaxation of Polybag Requirements for CV19 Test Kits – RM Communication to all Collection, Processing and Distribution staff – October 2021
- Royal Mail & Parcelforce – Royal Mail Group Safety Health & Environment ‘Huddle’ FY21 034 – Collection of Test Kits – Employees who collect Coronavirus test kits. 18 October 2021
- RMG SHE SAC1 – Delivery, Collection and Processing of Coronavirus PCR Test Kits between customers and laboratories for analysis review – Oct 2021
- RMG (RM & PFWW) – COVID-19 test kit mailings Processing (Royal Mail Operations SSOW) V2.3
- RMG (RM & PFWW) – COVID-19 test kit mailings Delivery and Collections (Royal Mail Operations SSOW) V3.7
- Letter from DHSC & HSA regarding no need for Royal Mail Poly Over-Bag Test Kits dated 22 October 2021.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer
Processing, Logistics, Parcelforce, International, Quadrant Department