Health and Safety Considerations for Transportation Amid COVID-19
If your school or ministry operates buses or vans to transport students or attendees, you’ll need a plan to protect drivers and riders from contagious respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. Your plan should consider things like cleaning and disinfecting, reduced capacity to achieve social distancing, and more. While there’s no single approach to meeting everyone’s unique situation, there are some generally applicable steps you can take to help protect your people.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting your buses and vans is very similar to the methods used for cleaning inside your buildings. One difference, however, is the products you’ll need to use to avoid damaging materials like vinyl seat covers, plastics, and seat belts. Some chemicals, such as bleach, can cause seat belts to deteriorate, resulting in weakened material that may fail in an accident.
To avoid damaging certain materials:
Do NOT use pure bleach on vinyl, fabric, or plastics
Do NOT use pure hydrogen peroxide on vinyl, fabric, or plastics
Do NOT use diluted bleach on fabric (e.g. seat belts, straps, seat cloth)
Do NOT use ammonia-based products on plastic, vinyl, or touch screens
Several bus manufacturers have released guidance regarding the types of disinfecting chemicals that are safest to use on interior materials.
When cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, it is recommended to frequently wipe down high-touch surfaces like handrails, seats, armrests, driver’s area, door handles, and other applicable surfaces. At a minimum, consider disinfecting high-touch surfaces between runs and at the end of the day. The CDC provides the following guidance for disinfection of hard, non-porous surfaces, including appropriate disinfectants (always follow the manufacturer’s guidance regarding chemical use on vehicle surfaces)1:
Diluted household bleach solutions prepared according to the manufacturer’s label for disinfection, if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
Check your state’s department of education website for additional cleaning and disinfecting recommendations specific to transporting students on buses. The US Department of Education website offers a list of links to each state’s department of education website. It can be found at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state/index.html
Protecting Drivers and Passengers
In addition to cleaning and disinfecting vehicle interiors, there are other health and safety steps that will need to be considered. To protect both drivers and passengers, the CDC provides the following guidance:2
Encourage use of face coverings for everyone, except for children younger than 2 years old and anyone who has trouble breathing or who would be unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.
Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows. Do not open windows if doing so poses a health risk (e.g., triggering asthma symptoms).
Create distance between children on school buses when possible (e.g., seat children one child per row, or two children from the same family, and skip rows). Check with your state for any mandatory restrictions that may apply. Factor these into your ministry’s transportation policy.
Bus and vehicle operators should be familiar with CDC guidance regarding safety and hygiene, such as3:
Limit close contact with others by maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet, when possible.
Request passengers avoid standing or sitting within 6 feet of the bus driver.
Avoid touching surfaces often touched by bus passengers.
Use gloves if required to touch surfaces contaminated by body fluids.
Practice routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including surfaces in the driver cockpit commonly touched by the operator.
Proper hand hygiene is an important infection control measure. Wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
Some additional steps you may consider to further enhance the health and safety of passengers include:
Assign seats, which simplifies contact tracing
Fill seats back to front and empty the bus front to back to minimize contact
Make hand sanitizer available and instruct every passenger to use it upon entering the bus
The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.
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