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NHS Covid-19 testing contractor found to be in breach of health and safety regulations, following sacking of whistleblower

01 October 2020 06:30
  • The Health and Safety Executive said containers had not been sufficiently washed and couriers were not informed on correct use of PPE.
  • The IWGB has an ongoing case against TDL for trade union detriment and victimisation of whistleblowers who raised the alarm over health and safety.
  • TDL has lucrative Covid-19 testing contracts with Superdrug, the Premier League and the Department of Health and Social Care.

1 October: The UK government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has found NHS Covid-19 testing contractor The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) in material breach of several health and safety regulations. The findings follow the launch of legal proceedings by the IWGB against TDL over the victimisation and dismissal of trade union activists and whistleblowers who had raised health and safety concerns. (Full report here)

The HSE found that TDL has put its courier fleet at a heightened risk of contamination because:

  • It has not properly informed its couriers on how they should clean containers transporting Covid-19 samples. While the company was telling couriers to clean containers once a week, the HSE stated this should be done every day.
  • It has not informed couriers on the proper use of masks and gloves, stating that the risk of the company’s current approach is “that couriers could contaminate themselves and/or surfaces”.
  • Its “courier COVID-19 risk assessment is not suitable and sufficient”.There was not enough information on how the company assessed risk in the “specimen reception area”, which is a 1m x1.5m room which could act as a “potential pinch point because there is no one way access”. There is also not enough information on how couriers can congregate in a socially distanced manner in the company’s limited rest areas.
  • The company did not properly consult couriers or their representatives in the development of its risk assessment.
  • The company has not given the reason why it conducted its risk assessment as much as two months after the UK Chief Medical Officer raised the risk from coronavirus in the UK from moderate to high.

IWGB reps had initially raised concerns about TDL’s health and safety practices in March. Shortly after, some of the workers that raised concerns were made redundant, in a clear act of whistleblower victimisation.

Alex Marshall, IWGB Couriers and Logistics Branch chair & former TDL cycle courier, says: “This report is extremely concerning. It proves that TDL, a private company which stands to make a fortune from the pandemic and is being offered millions of pounds to safeguard public health, can’t even ensure basic health and safety for its own workers. I am relieved that these issues, which TDL sacked me for speaking out about, are finally being brought to light.”

TDL is one of the key providers of tests and courier services for the NHS, including through its Health Services Laboratories partnership with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. TDL couriers were also transporting Covid-19 samples from The Nightingale hospital in London to laboratories.

The company has partnered with Superdrug on Covid-19 home testing kits and signed a £4 million deal with the Premier League. In a recent email seen by the IWGB, CEO David Byrne also announced TDL has been contracted by the Department of Health and Social Care to create a new high-volume Covid-19 testing facility. The results from this facility will inform the nation’s health program and strategic decisions around travel restrictions and local lockdowns.


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