Lorry driver loses job in row after being told he couldn't wash hands

A lorry driver claims he has lost his job for refusing to do a pick up because he wasn’t allowed to follow NHS coronavirus guidelines and wash his hands. Driver Phil Hill had been hired by manufacturer Mi3 in Blackburn, Lancashire, through agency Drivers Direct Recruitment to pick up plastic medical devices in Thorne, Yorkshire, on March 16. However when he arrived at STERIS-owned Synergy Health Sterilisation Ltd, in Thorne, Yorkshire, Phil claims he was refused the use of toilet and washing facilities.

The 50-year-old says was told he would have to use toilets at a nearby McDonalds despite the fact he had used the warehouse toilets the previous week. Concerned he would not be able to wash his hands immediately after using the warehouse equipment, Phil refused to pick up the delivery. However when Phil returned to Mi3, he claims he was told to clear out his truck as he ‘had not completed his pickup’ and that ‘he had cost the company money’.

Mi3 said that Phil was told to leave because during the discussion he became ‘aggressive and abrasive’ but said that they don’t directly employ Phil as he is an agency driver. However Phil claims when he contacted his agency, Drivers Direct Recruitment, to see if he still had a job, they told him he was ‘not employed by them’ anyway and are now refusing to speak to him. Phil, from Chorley, Lancashire, said: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting.

“I said this is about personal hygiene. I refused [to do the pick up] because of this virus. “I wanted some hygiene.

I wanted to be able to wash my hands, I wanted to be able to use the toilet. But I was refused. “Unfortunately, because I stood up for my rights, I’ve lost my job.

I just can’t believe it really. “Every time I’ve been [to STERIS in the past], I’ve been able to use the welfare facilities, toilets, etc. “I’ve gone in and abided by the rules.

I wore the safety glasses when I walked in, went to the toilet, washed my hands as I normally do anyway and went back out and waited. “I’ve even been told before I can go in to get myself a coffee because there was something wrong with the paperwork, something hadn’t been released. “[This time] when I went to walk in [I was told] ‘woah, sorry, you can’t come in’.

I went ‘why not? Can I not go to the toilet’? “[I was told] ‘no, no.

They’ve banned it. No drivers allowed, it’s come from the top brass’.” Phil claims he had been working for Mi3 as their driver since before Christmas 2019 and had been delivering to STERIS in Thorne every Monday as well as to their warehouse in Daventry, Northamptonshire.

Phil says he refused to do the delivery on March 16 because in ‘the climate we’re in’, he believed he could not be expected to use the forklift or pump truck to move pallets without being able to wash his hands before or after. After phoning Mi3 to explain the situation, Phil says his manager spoke to STERIS and was provided with the company’s updated policy about drivers not being allowed to use their toilets. Phil claims Mi3 then told him that he would need to compromise and go to the nearby McDonalds to wash his hands.

Refusing again, as he believed he should be able to clean his hands as soon as he had finished the pick up, Phil was told to return to the Mi3 warehouse instead. Phil, who has been a lorry driver for three years, said: “There has to be hygiene. “I reversed [the truck] and he [the staff member] came out and said ‘sorry no, you can’t use the toilet’.

“And I said I’m sorry, I’m closing my doors. So I pulled off [from] the bay, closed my doors and next thing I’ve got a manager from Mi3 phoning me asking what’s the problem. “He told me ‘we need to find a compromise here’ and suggested ‘I go somewhere, go to the toilet and go back’.

“I said ‘I still can’t wash my hands after I’ve delivered the load. I said I’m using their pump truck , etc. Look what climate we’re in.

“And we had a little bit of words, nothing bad, and he said ‘I tell you what, just bring it back’, so I did.” Upon returning to Mi3, Phil claims he had to wait around for 30 minutes before a member of management came to speak to him after being told to clean out his truck. Phil said: “They kept saying ‘it’s a failure of delivery, you’ve cost us money’.

“I told them ‘you have a duty of care. I know I work for an agency but you have a duty of care’.” Phil was told to clear out his truck and leave the property.

However after contacting his agency Drivers Direct Recruitment in Leyland, Lancashire, Phil claims they have ‘shunned him’ and are claiming they are not his employers.

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Phil said: “I contacted the agency, the agency have completely shunned me now. They want nothing to do with it. “[Drivers Direct Recruitment are] actually saying I was under complete control of Mi3 and they didn’t employ me.

“I said ‘hang on a second, I signed my contract with your agency, not with the company you’ve put me in to. My contract is with you’. They said ‘no, no, it’s all on Mi3’.

“So, I’m being shunned from both sides now. “Basically I’ve lost my job, all because I wanted to go and use welfare facilities. “I’ve been a regular driver with [Mi3] since well before Christmas.

I’ve done the same route and built up a massive rapport with the clients that I go and see. “If [the ban on drivers using STERIS toilets] had been known before, maybe I could have gone to the toilet before I got there, but no.” Phil believes that because of the growing pandemic, delivery drivers across the country are being stopped from using toilet facilities, which is against the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

‘I might just drive off’

Phil said: “Nobody is wanting to take this on but it’s happening to every single driver on the road at the moment.

“They are being refused the right to use welfare facilities. “I spoke to another driver and he had been refused at three different delivery points to use their washroom facilities. “Even though we’re drivers, we should be allowed to use facilities if we go to deliver at a point.”

Guy Topping, managing director of Mi3, explained that Phil was asked to leave because he became ‘very aggressive and abrasive’ when he returned from Steris but they had been ‘sympathetic’ to his concerns over the lack of hand washing facilities.

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However Guy said that Phil was a ‘contracted driver’ and was employed by Drivers Direct Recruitment and not Mi3. Drivers Direct Recruitment in Leyland were contacted for comment but said ‘no comment’. They refused to confirm if Phil had been employed with them.

Gethin Roberts, managing director of Drivers Direct Recruitment, said: “We are currently looking into these claims, however, we do not comment on individual cases.”

STERIS were repeatedly approached for a comment but have not yet responded.

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