Operating an Essential Business in the Time of Coronavirus

The CDC and OSHA have collaborated to prepare standards of sanitation and hygiene to help businesses to prepare themselves to protect their employees, customers, business partners, and families from the spread of COVID-19. You can find the workplace-specific guidelines here. Additional guides for other at-risk locations can be found here.

The purpose of this guide is to inform and educate managers on safety guidelines and standards in a warehouse environment.

Facility assessment

  • Conduct a risk assessment of your facility and identify key areas where employees and facilities may be at risk for exposure
  • Identify which employees are essential to the operation and then also identify which essential employees may be at an increased risk for infection such as interaction with outside vendors, drivers, etc.

Physical safeguard protocols

  • Assess your janitorial and custodial cleaning services and ensure they understand and are following CDC guidelines and increase cleaning measures in high-risk areas, such as shipping and receiving offices, reception, break rooms, bathrooms, door handles and doorknobs, and any areas at risk
    • Provide your cleaning service with your preferred chemicals to treat areas, ensuring control over antibacterial standards
    • Increase cleaning service standards in the warehouse space, including equipment and cages, etc.
  • Evaluate the risk in your warehouse workspace areas including:
    • Inbound/receiving, i.e., handling of boxes and shipments from origins of unknown safety
    • Equipment and areas often touched and visited by personnel
    • Shared workspaces like kiosks, clipboard areas, staging, and work planning spaces
    • Equipment used by various shifts or shared by areas, including carts, computers, scanners, screens, printers, banding/wrapping stations, etc.
    • Facility entrances and exits
  • Increase standard-issue minimum protective equipment:
    • Implement use of protective gear like nitrile gloves and N95 masks where available (material handling gloves may not be adequate protection)
    • Disposable suits, face shields, and other such items should be considered based on the materials handled
    • Sanitization stations at each entry/exit point, with mandatory protocol to sanitize when one passes
  • Implement post-shift cleaning procedures – having your staff wipe down all equipment prior to departure of the shift
  • Change all non-essential employees to work from home status if you haven’t already, adjusting systems as needed to allow business to continue with remote employees
  • For those that are at an increased risk, put into place additional protective measures such as enhanced education and screening, additional hygiene and hydration breaks and additional personal protective equipment
  • Put in place emergency procedures for infection control for both all staff, adjusting as necessary for unique scenarios faced by each team
  • Ensure floor mats are regularly cleaned or changed out
  • Limit traffic in the warehouse to essential visitors
  • Implement a no-entry policy for transportation carrier drivers

Exposure minimization protocols

  • Implement clear hand sanitation and hygiene regimes
  • Increase the number of available hydration stations
  • Implement additional breaks to maintain focus on employees’ immunities and health
  • Implement distancing measures in the shipping, receiving, warehouse, and public areas to ensure that employees, drivers, etc. remain separated to minimize potential spread
  • Implement additional sanitation measures in areas at risk such as restrooms, shipping offices where outside individuals may enter the premises, with particular attention paid to the sanitization of touchpoints such as doorknobs and handles, etc.
  • Implement measures to minimize exposure of outbound products before shipping for the safety of customers and transportation partners

This list, along with the official CDC/OSHA guidelines, should help you to ensure that your business is well-equipped to protect your employees, customers, vendors, and families in these trying times.