As the higher infection rates in the last two weeks already show, the potential second wave is building up and while our life is more moving inside buildings, the danger of infection will arise inevitably.
During the public health emergency in Spring, warehouses were open, goods were still on the move, and products were exchanged. The sector was spared of bad news like in meat plants, for example. Working conditions in warehousing are different and people work in a more distant way. So, it seems that the COVID-19 danger in the warehousing sector is under control, but there’s also a risk of getting too complacent and there’s also increasing Covid-19 fatigue.
Therefore, it’s worth to revisit government guidelines and to check to which extent proposed safety measures are implemented and adhered to.
Here’s our summary of the government guidelines tailored to warehouse facilities.
Working Remotely or Not?
Whenever it is possible, working from home is recommended to reduce the risk of transmission. After a temporary relaxation, this recommendation is back again. Obviously, warehouse agents/workers cannot have ‘the privilege’ to work remotely since they need to be at the site for performing warehouse duties.
However, for office workers who can work from home, employers should facilitate this option.
PPE and Face Covering
Depending on the work activity in the warehouse, workers who already use personal protective equipment (PPE) that include gloves, safety helmet, eye protection, safety footwear, etc, and sometimes face covering, they must continue to do so during COVID time.
From current experience, the usual standard PPE that are normally in use should suffice.
When wearing face-covering, employers should remind their employees or contractors to avoid touching their faces or the face-covering to prevent any contamination. Regular hand washing is still a valid rule.
Along with face covering, social distancing is recommended wherever possible. The distance guideline recommends keeping 2 meters distance between individuals. However, if this is not possible, the alternative one-meter rule should apply.
Browse Social Distancing Floor Markers
The use of barriers or screens to separate people from each other could be adopted to help social distancing. This is helpful, especially in reception areas.
In the continuous effort to reduce the risk of infection between co-workers in teams, it is advisable to organize shift groups with bubbles to avoid potential cross-contamination. In the event of infection of one person, the closing down of the entire facility could be avoidable that way.
Securing Employee’s Health and Providing Clear Guidance
Also, it is the employer’s duty to make sure that everyone entering the building is safe. Upon arrivals, employees, contractors or visitors must be aware of clear guidance about hygiene, social distancing, and other measures available to keep them safe.
Hand sanitisers must be available wherever possible to allow everyone to use them regularly. The soap dispenser should be replenished often to avoid any disruption.
Make sure your workplace has enough sanitiser stations. Click below to purchase a few with your company’s branding colours and logo.
A temperature checking device could be an additional even though only limited and supplementary way to shield against the virus given that asymptomatic people might be contagious, as well.
Ventilation at Work
Covid-19 is assumed to be less impactful when places are well-ventilated. Therefore, it is recommended to ensure that a good supply of fresh air is provided to all areas of the facility wherever possible.
For instance, ways to achieve maximum ventilation at facilities could be keeping doors and windows open if possible, using ceiling fans to improve air circulation, changing filters of the ventilation system when necessary, etc.
Keeping the workplace clean
Clean surfaces are a must to avoid cross-contamination. The guidance from the health ministry recommends frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment between use.
Objects such as door handle, pump handles, and printers should not be forgotten in the process.
This is a topic that is especially relevant for warehouses:
There is a risk of transmission of the virus through direct contact from objects that come into work and vehicles at the site.
The following steps are recommended:
- Regular handwashing especially for workers who deal with goods and merchandise.
- Frequent cleaning of reusable delivery boxes
- Cleaning instructions for the parts of shared equipment workers touch after each use, tools, and vehicles such as pallet trucks and forklift trucks.
- Encourage workers who take the vehicle home to clean it regularly.
- Workers should wear gloves.
When goods enter and leave the site
The guidance offered by the government for this topic is to minimise unnecessary contact at gatehouse security and warehouse and yard. For instance, if electronic pre-booking is possible, direct contact with delivery goods can be avoided.
Drivers are encouraged to stay in their vehicles if this doesn’t compromise their security.
Moreover, if safe and possible, it is recommended to have single workers to load or unload vehicles. Or, when more than one is needed, it is advised to use the same pairs of people for loads or unloads.
Moving From a Site to Another
The guideline suggests reducing movement by dissuading non-essential trips within buildings and sites, for instance, if possible encouraging the use of radios or any electronic devices to communicate. Again, the habit of cleaning these devices between use should be automatic.
It is also recommended to decrease job and equipment rotation.
One-way flow through sites could be applied if possible. And for people with disabilities, access to the lift must be easy.
In order to reduce crowded areas, pacing break times is advised in rooms. And social distancing is applicable as well in these times. Outside space can be useful at that point.
In addition, it is recommended that workers get packaged foods instead of having the staff canteens open.
Managing Your Visitors
Unnecessary visits should be discouraged. The meanwhile famous zoom calls are not a perfect, but ample replacement for visits.
Another way to manage visitors could be to arrange schedules in a way that interaction and overlapping contact with third parties are avoided or reduced.
As COVID-19 has been classified as a public health emergency, employers must make sure that the risk assessment for the business include the risk of COVID-19.
The paper provided by the government should help to provide clear guidance for your staff.
Discover here some interactive tools available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/assessment.htm
Even if the rate of infection is increasing these days during cold weather, working safely in warehouses can be achievable if employers continue to apply clear instructions based on the government guidelines. Especially, as we also fight with Covid-19 fatigue, staff must constantly be reminded and encouraged to follow the rules.
We hope you find this summary helpful and would appreciate your comments and thoughts.
Feature image: © halfpoint (Envato Elements)