The last year has been more than challenging for businesses across Canada. While many have been able to shift to remote work, essential businesses have had to implement new practices to help prevent and reduce the spread of illness. With in-person shopping limited across Canada, warehouses and fulfillment centres have had to meet a massive increase in demand from online orders. Unfortunately, these types of facilities have also been disproportionally affected by COVID-19, highlighting the need for new health and safety measures in these types of environments.
Our experts recommend three key components to include in a warehouse health and safety plan during COVID-19:
1. Personal Safety Measures
Implementing personal safety measures like COVID screening, physical distancing and correctly using the right protective equipment are essential to an effective health and safety plan.
- COVID screening should be conducted at facility entry points and should include hand sanitizer stations and screening questions outlined by local health authorities.
- Physical distancing is crucial to helping prevent illness transmission among people working in the same facility. In a large warehouse facility, it may seem like it’s easier for workers to keep their distance from each other while on the job. However, it’s important to take steps like staggering break times, strategically rearranging break room furniture and requiring team members to stay at least two metres apart at all times. In warehouse facilities with attached offices, it’s important to ensure that workers stay in their designated areas to avoid as much crossover as possible.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks should be required in warehouse facilities to protect workers and prevent the spread of illness. Employers should provide their teams with the required PPE including masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and gloves.
2. Enhanced Cleaning Protocols
Facilities should have plans and supplies in place to carry out enhanced facility cleaning and disinfecting, with a focus on common touch points. An enhanced cleaning protocol should:
- Integrate cleaning into the daily equipment inspection process. Warehouse workers are often trained to inspect their equipment before use. As a part of their regular inspection, they should be provided with disinfecting wipes to clean down equipment surfaces to prevent the spread of bacteria.
- Provide disinfecting wipes or a disinfecting spray and wipe combo to clean high touch surfaces. This is especially important in break rooms on high touch surfaces like microwave and refrigerator handles, doorknobs, counters, tables and chairs.
- Verify and validate cleaning program compliance. Implement a cleaning protocol checklist to be completed by each shift. Better still, enter cleaning protocols into a digital cleaning program manager like wandaNEXT™.
3. Employee and Customer Communications
Clearly communicating expectations around personal safety measures and enhanced cleaning protocols is critical.
- Review personal safety measures at pre-shift meetings and review compliance reporting for cleaning activities in personal workspaces.
- Conduct regular health and safety meetings with frontline teams to share information, answer questions and ensure understanding.
- Communicate safety protocols to customers when conducting deliveries and at curbside pickup.
As vaccine rollouts to continue to accelerate, it’s a relief to know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Until then, it’s vital that we all keep up our efforts to keep essential workers healthy and safe.