Taxi drivers are “frightened” to be at work according to a Hackney taxi controller after new figures reveal they are one of the occupations most likely to die of Covid-19.
Mare Street Cars reported their taxi drivers are afraid of being at work as new statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that nearly 50 percent of all taxi driver and chauffeur deaths have been caused by coronavirus at a rate of 36.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
Joseph Joseph, 39, a taxi controller at the Hackney-based cab firm said that he can understand why taxi drivers are dying at such a high rate.
He said: “In taxis there are always close encounters between the drivers and passengers. Once drivers get to an address, there are [sometimes] three or four people there and in the taxi, there is little space. The job is very close contact, it’s very hard to keep two metres distance.
“Sometimes drivers risk their own lives. They have to go home to their families. We need a medical expert to come to every taxi firm, we need guidance and advice. We are essential workers. Everyone is frightened.”
Joseph said that some taxi firms in Hackney are shut because their owners are scared to open. While others stay home, Joseph’s employers are taking their own precautions at work like checking the temperature of drivers daily.
David Thomas, a senior lecturer of health & safety management at Middlesex University, said that these actionable steps to bring workers such as taxi drivers back to work can be taken however, it is crucial we get more data to ensure drivers feel safe returning to their cabs.
As reported by The Guardian, Addison Lee and Uber are also taking these safety measures on board. This week they have introduced plastic partition screens in cabs to protect staff.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “Black cabs are built with partitions separating driver and passengers that enable social distancing, they accept card payments so no cash needs to change hands, and they are designed to be easily cleaned between journeys, while private hire vehicles are not designed to the same standards.”
Thomas said that employers can take health & safety measures into their own hands much like Mare Street Cars. He said: “This data is incomplete, we don’t know if this includes gig workers such as Uber drivers and others. Actionable steps for employers are to ask for more data, ensure the use of PPE equipment at work and provide safe spaces such as barriers within taxis and wipes to disinfect between each ride.”
Thomas added that without the necessary data there is a fine line between causation and effect. “We don’t know enough about who these people are, what their lifestyles are like, and whether it is really their job that is causing these statistics. Employers should be tracking this data: who is sick, with what for how long & how often,” he said.
He said that wearing face masks, even if homemade, makes some difference in reducing the number of infections. By covering our faces, with a medical-grade or homemade mask, we are reducing the amount of potentially infectious droplets that spread when we are out.
Personal protective equipment is now becoming easier to attain as many local groups are starting homemade PPE businesses.
Aside from taxi drivers, statistics show that care workers and home carers aged between 20-64 in England and Wales have suffered the most coronavirus related deaths, with nearly 25 per cent of all fatalities in this occupation being caused by the virus.
Figures also show that male security guards are most likely to die from the virus. For every 100,000 people, 46 men have died. Chefs are also in that high risk group with 36 deaths occurring per 100,000 people.
Specific health workers (ie. ambulance staff and dental nurses) are also affected, with 66.7 percent of their deaths being caused by coronavirus.
Thomas added: “We must follow rules. We should wear PPE. Going forward employers should monitor who is ill and let those who don’t feel well stay home. We must hand was for the same reason as preventing diarrhoea: our dirty hands transmit so much.”
These figures come during a time of change for the UK. Many professions such as those in the construction and maintenance industry are already back at work, as the UK begins entering Level 3 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.
McNamara added: “London’s cabbies are committed to playing our part in getting Londoners back to work safely, and black cabs are still the safest form of public transport.
Written by Ana Kozlova and Joshua Lamb