UK’s delivery workers are now at a higher risk of accidents – how can they protect themselves?

Delivery workers were the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

. During the UK’s agonising string of lockdowns, we counted on delivery drivers to leave us meals and online orders right at our doorstep, adding at least a little bit of comfort to what was otherwise a very unpleasant year. But beyond comfort, the increased demand for delivery services also created more job opportunities for Britain’s already vulnerable workforce. The food delivery market alone reached £11.4 billion in 2020, and 4.3 million British adults ordered food for the first time while being at home in lockdown. During the pandemic, delivery jobs became a safety net for people whose paychecks were cut or who were temporarily laid off. Since most delivery companies allow employees to set their own schedules, many people were able to work as delivery drivers in the evenings or at the weekend, thus managing to supplement their primary income and keep up with growing expenses. Being a delivery worker can be a great way of overcoming a rough financial patch, and it can even turn into a lucrative career in the long run. However, this new in-demand job isn’t without its risks. For thousands of delivery workers across the UK, delivering food and packages on a daily basis means being a victim of harassment and even risking their health. 

 

The lesser-known truth: risks that delivery workers are exposed to every day 

In theory, being a delivery worker is easy enough: you pick up the order, leave it at the client’s door, you get paid, and that’s it. In reality, things are much more complicated than that, and the job involves many risks, including: 

 

  • Being exposed to a wide range of weather conditions, such as rain and extreme heat 
  • Car or bike accidents 
  • Stress and exhaustion from spending a long time in traffic 
  • Fatigue and low-quality sleep from working night shifts 
  • Slips, trips, and falls, especially for bicycle delivery workers 
  • Being harassed or treated harshly by clients 
  • Risks associated with delivering packages in high crime neighbourhoods 
  • High exposure to viruses 
  • Back injuries from lifting heavy packages 

 

During the pandemic, many delivery workers said that their job suddenly became more dangerous. Set against a background of economic uncertainty and anxiety, people became more irritable, and, oftentimes, delivery workers were the unfortunate victims. For example, some reported that clients became increasingly aggressive, blaming them for delayed or damaged parcels. Then there was the trend of the so-called porch pirates, which was exacerbated by the fact that many people opt for contactless delivery. Porch pirates usually wait for delivery workers to leave the package at the client’s doorstep and then swoop in and steal it, but there have also been reports of people attacking delivery workers to steal their packages. 

 

And if news like this leads you to believe that you should instead be a delivery worker in some remote area in the countryside, know that this has its risks too. Poor road quality can be a problem, but there were also cases of delivery workers injured in dog attacks. A recent example is that of a Tesco delivery driver, who was left scarred for life after being bitten by a dog in Cornwall

 

How can you protect yourself?

If you have sustained an injury while delivering packages, you should know that you have your rights. If the event took place because of someone’s negligence, whether that is an employer or a client, you may be eligible for compensation. Every case is different, depending on the circumstances, but you can use tools such as Compensation Calculator UK to get an estimate of how much you could receive. Some of the factors that can influence the amount of compensation include the circumstances of the accident, the kind of injury you sustained, its severity, and the extent to which it impacted your life. 

 

While the thought that you can get compensation for injuries sustained on the job may be reassuring, it’s always to prevent such accidents from happening in the first place. Here are some tips to protect yourself: 

 

  • If your job involves lifting heavy packages, practice safe lifting techniques. 
  • Always wear protective equipment and dress according to the weather. During summer, apply SPF to shield your skin from UV radiation and hydrate. British weather can be unpredictable, so always carry with you a rain jacket. 
  • At night, park in well-lit areas and, if you’re riding a bike, make sure your bike safety lights are on. 
  • Always lock your vehicle when going to deliver a package. 
  • Carry a limited amount of cash with you and, if the recipient opted for cash payment, be discreet about the transaction. 
  • If someone is being aggressive and you feel that you might be at risk, don’t answer by being violent. Try to deescalate the situation and prioritise your safety. 
  • Install a dashcam. If you’re involved in an accident, the footage can be used when claiming compensation. 
  • Follow the company’s official health & safety policy. 
  • Wear a mask and limit physical interactions with recipients 
  • If the company’s policy allows it, wear regular clothes, not the company’s uniform, because the uniform may draw attention and make you a target. 
  • Turn on your GPS. Not only will this help you not get lost, but it can also be used to find you in case there’s an incident. 
  • Stay aware of your surroundings. Before delivering a package, check if there are potential porch pirates nearby or any other people who might have criminal intent. 
  • If the delivery address is a hotel, never go up to the hotel room and leave the package at the reception instead. 
  • If you are involved in an incident, and you feel that a certain route is particularly dangerous, inform your employer about it so that they can take additional safety measures, such as assigning two drivers together. 

 

All in all, working as a delivery driver can be a great way to boost your income, especially during the pandemic, but don’t forget that it ranks as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and you should take preventive measures to protect your safety. 

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