MPs and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have voiced concerns over the wellbeing of UK logistics workers during ‘Black Friday’ promotions.
The news comes after UK courier Hermes reportedly asked as many as 5,000 members of staff to work up to 20 days without a break, in order to keep up with consumer demand for speedy deliveries.
Reports suggest that delivery drivers who already work six days a week have now been asked to work seven by Hermes – which is expected to deliver some 750,000 parcels for major retailers such as Next and John Lewis during ‘Black Friday’ promotions.
According to a report in The Guardian, Hermes has told employees that Sunday work is “completely optional”.
However, a number of couriers have commented that they feel ‘under pressure’ to oblige.
One employee said: “They are requiring us, if we can’t get cover, to do the Sundays because they threaten to take our rounds off us. I am very concerned about safety”.
Another added: “It is dangerous. One Friday, after I’d worked two Sundays, I pretty much fell asleep and had to pull over … [But] I can’t afford to lose a round … We end up in a position where we almost aren’t given the option to say no.”
Labour MP and chair of the work and pensions select committee, Frank Field, has called upon HSE to investigate the potential health and safety risk of Hermes’ requests – particularly with regard to road safety.
Meanwhile, UK consumers are expected to spend approximately £2.9bn over the four-day period following the promotion, which will take place on Friday 25 November. Online retail association IMRG predicts a 12 per cent year-on-year rise in the number of parcels processed over ‘Black Friday’ weekend.
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A UK parcel delivery company has been ordered to pay more than £130,000 in fines and costs, after it was found guilty of serious health and safety breaches.
Buckinghamshire-based Delivered UK found itself facing legal action after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the company had taken insufficient measures to prevent its forklift trucks from colliding with pedestrians upon entry and exit from its stock buildings.
The investigation, which came after a Delivered UK employee was knocked down by a reversing forklift and subsequently hospitalised in 2014, found that the company had failed to conduct proper risk assessments with relation to loading and unloading its forklifts.
At Reading Crown Court on 23 September 2016, HSE said that Delivered UK’s yard was not organised in such a way that would allow pedestrians or workers on foot to access vehicles parked in other areas of the site safely.
It added that the company had failed to assess or introduce sufficient barriers to segregate on-foot workers from forklift drivers and vehicles.
A Court heard also that one employee had suffered serious fractures and crush injuries to his left leg after he was knocked down by a forklift in 2014 and became entangled with the vehicle’s rear wheel.
Delivered UK pleaded guilty to all charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £120,000. The company was also ordered to pay £10,783 in costs – and was issued with an improvement notice by HSE.
Delivered UK has not commented on the case.