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RSA warned of 'significant challenge' in making driving tests safe in light of Covid-19

That’s according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Image: Shutterstock/shutterupeire

THE ROAD SAFETY Authority warned that social distancing could not be adhered to during driving tests and that trying to make them safe was a “significant challenge”.

Internal records said that there was “little control” over the workspace because candidates provided their own cars for use in tests.

They warned that the driving test by its nature takes place in an enclosed space, inside a two-metre space, and lasts at least 25 minutes.

An internal brief said: “All three of those factors are recognised as contributory factors to the spread of Covid-19 and requires robust mitigating steps to counter the possible spread of Covid-19.”

A health and safety risk assessment for the driving test identified 16 separate risks that would apply to the resumption of testing.

It said more engagement would need to take place with customers before any test took place with a phone call checking their health in advance.

Among the issues raised was making sure vehicles were “clean” and “free from any personal belongings”.

Testers were also told to disinfect the applicant’s learner permit before they handled it.

A “no hand shaking policy” was also recommended and testers were told they should not hold doors open for candidates.

The assessment explained: “Allow the customer to go first and open the door yourself after applicant has exited if necessary.”

Testers were also encouraged to carry out parts of the driving test outside of the vehicle if possible, including the “reversing manoeuvre”.

It added: “To increase air circulation, tester to ensure vehicle windows left partially open on both driver and passenger sides where possible.”

Vehicle air conditioning should also be set to off, and for air not to recirculate through the vehicle.

It said wearing of face masks by both driver and candidate was “mandatory” because two metre distancing simply was not an option.

Testers were also encouraged to use wipes on the places they commonly touch like the seat belt, seat adjuster levers, and door handles.

Candidates were also told not to attend if they – or anyone in their household – had symptoms of infection.

The RSA also put in plans to deal with employees who were in what are considered “very high risk” or “high risk” categories in the event of infection.

The records – released under FOI – also warned of considerable difficulties with dealing with a backlog of more than 62,000 candidates.

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The waiting lists would likely be higher as up to 40,000 customers who would otherwise have applied for tests had not done so during lockdown.

There were issues around the expiry of contracts for temporary testers, colleagues who were in a “very high risk” category and unable to return to work safely, reduced output by testers due to Covid-19 measures, and test centre capacity restrictions.

The briefing said: “These factors mean that we will need to monitor the position as regards waiting times on resumption until we get to a steady state.

“This will allow us to get a clearer picture of future wait times for learner drivers.”

The Road Safety Authority said it was unlikely they would be able to meet demand initially meaning that some customers would be prioritised, especially those that had been cancelled in March.

Correspondence with the Department of Transport also shows how officials there conceded that driving tests raised “greater difficulties” than many services.

A spokesman for the RSA said: “In developing the resumption of work protocols the focus at all times was to protect staff and customers by having all the necessary measures in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

“We particularly acknowledge the significant support and cooperation of our frontline workers. As a result, customers can be assured that all these services are following best practice in line with government policy and guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

About the author:

Ken Foxe

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