HS2 social distancing hard hats must avoid worker victimisation

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Social distancing hard hats for HS2 should not be used as a disciplinary tool but as an educational device, warns Unite the union

HS2 contractor Eiffage Kier Ferrovial BAM announced its plans to issue workers on its central area contract with social distancing hard hats that sound an alarm if workers get too near each other on-site.

Avoid worker victimisation

Unite national officer for construction, Jerry Swain, said: “Insuring social distancing on site is absolutely vital to helping prevent the spread of Covid-19 and Unite welcomes the introduction of these hard hats provided strict rules about how the information they generate is followed.

“Ensuring social distancing is about educating the workforce and for that to be a success then it needs to be enshrined that the information recorded from the helmets will never be used to discipline or dismiss a worker.

“It is human nature to interact with fellow colleagues at close quarters and these helmets, if used properly, will help to educate workers to maintain social distancing and act as a reminder when they come too close to each other.

“It would be entirely counterproductive if workers feared being disciplined or dismissed if the alarm was triggered particularly as it would be impossible to find out exactly which worker had inadvertently strayed too close to someone else.”

Unite will be seeking a meeting with the joint venture company about how the social distancing hard hats will be used and hopes to receive reassurances that they will not be used for disciplinary purposes.

The union will also be seeking guarantees that the JV company is complying with GDPR rules and that personal and private information about a worker cannot and will not be disclosed while they are in possession of the hard hat – especially as this could potentially include information being recorded outside the workplace.

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