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Researchers examining how to decrease COVID-19 health risks for delivery workers

A professor at the University of Waterloo is leading a study of working conditions for gig couriers and drivers to determine how to better protect them from getting sick.
By: Alison Larabie Chase
November 26, 2020
Dr. Ellen MacEachern. Photo: Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Dr. Ellen MacEachern. Photo: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Many Canadians have come to rely on home delivery of food and other items during the pandemic, and have turned to ride-sharing services in greater numbers to avoid public transit. While this reduces our risk of catching COVID-19, it leaves so-called gig economy workers more vulnerable to becoming ill.

Dr. Ellen MacEachern is a professor at the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. She says people who do this type of work, and who cannot work from home, need greater protection at all times, but especially during a global pandemic. For example, customers can request contactless delivery, but couriers cannot. Similarly, passengers can ask for windows to be open and for drivers to wear masks, but if a customer refuses to mask up or demands that windows be shut, the driver may feel pressure to comply for fear of losing their positive rating, which could lead to job loss.

Building on her earlier research on the health of ride-sharing drivers, Dr. MacEachern and her team are interviewing workers who deliver food or parcels as well as ride-share drivers and those who manage them, to learn about and quantify their risks. The goal is to create strategies and policy recommendations to improve safety while on the job. For now, she suggests that people using these services act with consideration and kindness: wear masks and ask for contactless delivery whenever possible.

Source: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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