Throughout much of 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on companies across the globe, and the warehouse industry is no exception. Warehouses and distribution centers play a critical role in making sure goods and products get to where they are needed. In adapting to the “new normal,” industries have had to implement major changes in how they operate. As a warehouse owner or manager, you are faced with the important task of assessing the state of your current company processes, reducing employee contact and interaction and making adjustments to reduce the threat of exposure to COVID-19.
After assessing the risks involved with the processes at your warehouse, you must implement safe practices to limit exposure to COVID-19. Because the virus primarily spreads person-to-person through respiratory droplets, one of the most important strategies is to maintain social distancing. The purpose of social distancing is to reduce or eliminate close physical contact between warehouse workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that employees be at least 6 feet apart whenever possible.
In a warehouse setting, it is strongly advised that only workers essential to each work task are present to minimize the risk to others. Employees who can work alone need to be isolated. In situations where it is not possible to follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, you need to consider whether that activity needs to continue for the company to operate. If it does, be sure to take all the actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between workers.
Consider the following social distancing strategies and safety precautions for your warehouse:
- Modify the alignment of workstations so workers can be at least six feet apart and are not facing each other. This decreases the chance of transmission and exposure.
- Establish barriers between workers and between workers and customers. Using strip curtains, plastic barriers, or other similar impermeable partitions, allows workers to work in tandem on the same production line.
- Limit access to common areas, such as break rooms, entrances, and parking lots, where workers are likely to congregate. Social distancing in breakrooms, for example, can be temporarily addressed by spacing out chairs, tables, and microwaves, and by changing clock-in/clock-out procedures to limit the number of people touching the device.
- In narrow, confined areas, such as hallways and stairwells, try to make foot-traffic go one direction to encourage single-file movement at a 6-foot distance. When looking at a map of your warehouse, you will want to closely look at the current traffic patterns. Try to pinpoint any areas where workers could come into proximity with one another and consider altering the traffic flow. This will reduce the risk of workers crossing paths.
- Consider using visuals like signs, floor decals, and colored tape to remind employees to socially distance, including at workstations and break areas.
- Place hand sanitizers and hand washing stations throughout the warehouse. Make sure the sanitizer has at least 60% alcohol. Use touch-free stations whenever you can. Bathrooms should be stocked with soap and paper towels.
- You might want to get rid of regular ‘stand-up’ team meetings, or at least find an area in the warehouse where meetings can be held with social distancing. In many warehouses, ‘stand-up’ meetings are held in the facility’s operations space, with employees often standing relatively close together. It may not be doable to have meetings like this while also adhering to social distancing guidelines.
- Having multiple shifts for workers may be another option. When you operate multiple shifts, you reduce the number of workers in the warehouse at a given time. Having two or three shifts, for example, allows your workforce to stay productive while reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure. If you can, add a break in between shifts for sanitation and disinfecting.
- When training new and existing employees, you should include a discussion of how critical social distancing is. Also, explain to workers the importance of wearing face coverings or masks, covering coughs, washing hands frequently, and disinfecting surfaces that a lot of people touch. You should also tell your workers that sharing they should avoid sharing tools, equipment, and personal items unless absolutely necessary. Tell workers to resist touching their faces as well.
- Encourage your employees to stay home if they are feeling sick. Make sure that sick leave policies are consistent with CDC guidelines and that your workers know of and fully understand these policies. If a worker becomes sick during their shift, they should be sent home right away. Surfaces in their work area should be disinfected as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to take the temperature of workers prior to them starting their shift.
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Maintaining social distancing strategies is essential for a safe environment for your warehouse in these coronavirus times. With a world in need, it’s more important than ever to have a warehouse that has a dynamic, efficient traffic flow to allow for product delivery.
Parts Brite has a wide variety of aftermarket loading dock parts to fit your company’s needs. We ship nationwide. To learn more about our products and services, call now at 1-855-PARTSBRITE (1-855-727-8727) or email us at email@example.com.