The current Government advice is clear that online retail is open and encouraged. This, of course, means that the warehouses and logistic infrastructures behind the online sales also must remain open. That, in most cases, requires people to be at work.
Each online business should evaluate if they should remain operational or make the difficult decision to close for the foreseeable future.
If you decide to continue, it goes without saying that to get through this period, changes to working practices need to be maintained, people should work from home where possible, face to face meetings should be done via video or conference calls.
But a warehouse picker or a packer cannot work from home and the latest Government guidelines allow people to travel to and from work if they cannot work from home.
It is therefore more important than ever to ensure that we do all we can to keep up our duty of care to staff who are in the workplace.
Giving all staff the facility to wash their hands, or use hand sanitiser, on entry into the building, and when leaving. This should be as close as possible to the entrance without the need to open and close internal doors if possible.
Making sure there are opportunities for staff to wash their hands and/or sanitise regularly throughout the day is also important.
Many staff will have a workstation of their own anyway, but where staff share stations, say at the end of a shift etc, then extra care should be taken to make sure all areas of the workstation are wiped down with disinfectant before the station is passed over. Allowing extra time at the end of shifts to do this is important
It is easy to forget in normal circumstances that many people handle various tools throughout the working day “Lend me your knife”, “pass me that tape gun” etc are commonly heard throughout the day.
Provision to provide individuals with their own personal equipment should be made to minimise the sharing culture. And if items do need to be shared or handed over at the end of a shift, they to should be wiped down and sanitised.
As warehouses have more and more technology inside of them, with PDA’s, keyboards, touch screens and computer mice common items in today’s warehouses. The same rules apply, keep to your own personal items through your shift and ensure that devices etc are sanitised before they are handed over at the end of a shift.
Where possible, employers should try and provide disposable gloves, face masks etc to ensure that they are minimising the possible spread through hand and face contact.
Above all common sense is the key and ensuring that your staff adhere to the increased cleaning.
Of course, the health and safety of staff is the priority and of utmost importance. But warehouses still need to operate.
There are a few things we can consider to help our staff be as safe as possible:
- Encourage staff to avoid public transport where possible. Allow them more flexible start and finish times to allow increased travel time.
- Offer longer or shorter days. This could minimise crowding in the warehouse,
- Rearrange packing benches etc to ensure staff remain the recommended 2m apart as much as possible in line with recommended social distancing.
- Look at splitting your operation into multiple shifts. This will lower the number of staff in the warehouse at any time enabling you to continue operations but minimise staff contact.
Flexibility during this unprecedented period is the key to doing all you can to minimise the risks to your staff and offer the duty of care that you owe them.
The country as a whole is working together to get through this, and consumers are more realistic with their demands and understand that deliveries may be delayed or take longer during this time.
Warehouses, carriers and delivery operatives are all working very hard, but all with reduced staff numbers of operating hours so is not unreasonable to inform customers that orders may take slightly longer than normal.