The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has called on government and Public Health England to provide “clear, unequivocal guidance” about how personal protective equipment (PPE) should be deployed in the logistics sector.
A smooth return to working would only be possible if workers were given clear direction on the PPE required, and where it must be used, said FTA policy director Elizabeth de Jong.
“Public debate and uncertainty about PPE, and in particular facemasks, has caused disquiet and unease about whether working in logistics environments is truly safe,” she warned.
“There is also concern that this lack of clarity has also led to fewer workers making themselves available to work, and some business closing over staff welfare concerns.
“Government advice may be that business should be able to function safely, but without clear direction from either Public Health England or government to confirm that the use of PPE, particularly facemasks, is required or advantageous in non-healthcare workplaces or in public is creating more confusion and uncertainty.”
She added that the adoption of PPE as part of safe working practice must also consider current availability of the necessary equipment.
“It is absolutely right and proper that the NHS is prioritised in use of PPE, but supply chains also have a vital role to play in economic recovery,” said de Jong.
“If the scientific evidence points to the use of PPE as a necessity in restarting business, then logistics must be given access to supplies that it needs, so that critical services can start to move again.”
FTA said it had submitted recommendations on PPE to the business secretary Alok Sharma.
Elizabeth de Jong also warned government to exercise caution in the withdrawal of financial support as the crisis eased, including the option to furlough staff.
“These have been challenging times, and the issues faced by our industry will not vanish overnight,” she said.
“We all want to return to normal, whatever that may now look like, as quickly as possible, but must not undo the good work done while we have faced such unprecedented challenges. For some businesses which have been hardest hit by the pandemic, support may be needed for a few months yet.”