Waiting in Test Centres - 31st August 2020

In recent days, many of our members have raised concerns following the DVA's email regarding the resumption of driving tests and the guide that has been provided to ADIs on what new tests would look like.

Most notably, our members have been concerned about the DVA stating that they will not allow instructors to remain inside the test centre whilst the candidate is out on test. They have advised that, due to social distancing guidelines, instructors will also not be permitted to accompany the candidate in the back of the vehicle during the test.

This is understandably causing concern for instructors, as we work and live in a country where the weather is not always ideal. The scenario envisaged by many, is a very cold, wet day whereby the instructor has no shelter from the elements, whilst their candidate is on test. NIADIA are also particularly concerned that, due to a number of members who may have disabilities or health conditions, but wish to resume work, these instructors would potentially be at risk by not having a suitable waiting room or possibly not having any seating. Appropriate accommodations must be made for this group of individuals to prevent discrimination based upon disability/illness.

As Northern Irelands largest ADI association, NIADIA, along with other associations, have raised this concern at recent NIAIC (Northern Ireland Approved Instructors Council) meetings to be highlighted to the DVA with a response requested on what they are planning to do to facilitate instructors waiting for their candidates.

The instructor's council (NIAIC) have yet to receive a response from the DVA asking what provisions will be made for instructors.

In recent correspondence from the ADINJC in England to the DVSA, the government body was reminded of their responsibility under the health and safety legislation to provide these facilities. Sue Duncan, from ADINJC wrote a brilliant letter to the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) asking for clarification on this issue. Please see below for Sue's letter and the HSE response.

"As a result of Covid 19 the DVSA has decided that driving instructors will not be allowed access to waiting rooms while their candidates are out on test. This means that instructors can be waiting out in all weathers for up to an hour, sometimes more, often with no protection against the elements other than a coat and umbrella. Many test centres are remote from any kind of facility within a reasonable distance where they could shelter from the weather. And in any case they have to be on hand in case their candidate's test is terminated and returns to the test centre early. The last couple of days have brought some very unpleasant weather with high winds and torrential rain and many centres have little or no shelter. But at least the temperatures were reasonable. What is going to happen as winter comes on and it gets colder? We do feel that this decision is unreasonable and shows a lack of empathy and compassion on the part of the agency. Many instructors are of older age groups, some have disabilities that preclude them from standing for long periods, especially in inclement weather. Some are considering leaving the profession as a result of this decision. Some instructors have asked to put up gazebos outside test centres to at least provide a bit of shelter, this request has been denied. Most centres have no outside seating, and requests for seating provision has also been denied. If instructors get colds as a result of having to stand outside, then they will in all probability have to stop work as their symptoms may be similar to that of Covid 19. Driving instructors are self employed and not entitled to government assistance in the form of sick pay. May we ask what the legal situation is with regard to government agencies providing facilities for visitors to their premises? Is there a duty of care on the agency towards people who are its customers, in that instructors pay the agency a licence fee to be able to deliver lessons."

And this was their reply - 

Dear Sue Duncan,

Thank you for contacting HSE about access to welfare facilities at DVSA test centres. The Workplace (Health Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 (Regulations 20 and 21) require the provision of suitable sanitary and washing facilities.  At test centres this includes the provision of suitable toilet and handwashing facilities, which should be lit, ventilated and kept clean.  Access must be provided to all visiting workers, including driving examiners and instructors who visit the centre as part of their work.  During the current pandemic, access to handwashing facilities is particularly important to control the transmission of Covid-19.  This should also be provided to any candidates who visit the centre as part of the testing process.    Driving examiners and instructors must additionally be provided with suitable rest areas, which at test centres means waiting rooms.  Where existing waiting rooms are not suitable to maintain social distancing in line with government guidelines, employers should identify alternative areas.  If this is not possible, existing waiting rooms may be used with the provision of additional instruction and information to potential users, which covers steps to be taken to maintain social distancing.  Waiting rooms should be kept clean and be sufficiently ventilated.

HSE has contacted the DVSA directly on the use of welfare and rest facilities.  We have been assured that: • Access is now allowed to sanitary and handwashing facilities at all test centres.  This includes driving examiners, instructors and pupils / candidates.  • DVSA are assessing individual test centres in relation to the provision of waiting rooms.  They have been advised that the provision of waiting rooms for workers is a legal requirement. I hope that this reassures you regarding access to suitable welfare facilities at DVSA test centres.  If you have further concerns on this matter that cannot be resolved by speaking with the DVSA, please contact HSE as the relevant enforcing authority.  Contact arrangements for reporting specific coronavirus (Covid-19) workplace concerns to the HSE are: • by telephone: 0300 003 1647 (lines are open 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)  • online using our Concerns form

NIADIA will be following up with the HSENI to remind the DVA of their responsibility to their customers and the instructors who they appear to have overlooked on this occasion.

Further updates on this will be provided when we receive them.

If you would like to join NIADIA, the only national ADI association in Northern Ireland and have your views and opinions represented with a support network of instructors, our membership fees have been suspended due to COVID-19 and you can join online by clicking here.

For any concerns or queries you may have that you'd like your views represented on, you can fill in our contact form on the bottom of our home page by clicking here.

#dva #northernireland #niadia #puttinginstructorsfirst

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