COVID-19 Guidelines and Resources for Warehouses

John Geddes
Updated on June 25, 2020

Running a warehouse or distribution center operation is challenging under most circumstances. Turning over product and meeting tight deadlines creates high-stress situations. However, if we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it is that new challenges always pop up; and how you adapt to those challenges often means the difference between success and failure.

This is what we now face with the current COVID-19 pandemic. We are all operating in uncharted territory right now and likely will be for months to come.

Still, there are several takeaways you should consider to ensure this virus or any future diseases do not threaten your business. We have put together some suggestions along with resources you can use for help and guidance.

Take Care of Your Most Important Asset

Robotics will never completely take over the work done by humans. Therefore, it is critical you adopt effective policies to ensure team loyalty and health. You know and have heard the most obvious ones countless times. We have added some additional information that will also help keep your operation running.

  • Wash your hands. Enforcing a strong personal hygiene policy not only prevents the spread of COVID-19 now, it will also help keep employees healthy during yearly cold and flu seasons. Settings such as warehouses will never be confused with sterile clean rooms, but emphasizing the need for basic cleanliness will have a profound impact on the overall health inside your facility.
  • Social distancing. This is not always an option based on the work requirements and layout of a facility. However, when it is possible, help your team by stressing the need to maintain a distance the equivalent of the width of a forklift. This has proven successful in limiting the spread of the virus in many facilities around the country.
  • Protective personal equipment (PPE). Make sure team members have access to PPE, particularly in situations where social distancing is not possible. Provide facemasks, shields or both as needed. Make gloves and sanitizers available around the facility, particularly on the loading dock where interaction with non-employees is common.
  • Regular cleaning. The days of cleaning and disinfecting once a month (or year) whether it needs it or not are gone. It is impossible to clean a warehouse completely, but you can mitigate the majority of issues by regularly cleaning common areas such as restrooms, breakrooms, desks, commonly used equipment, handrails, doorknobs and similar items. Clean multiple times daily if possible, but definitely clean between shift changes at a bare minimum. This includes sanitizing (when possible) shipments and paperwork.
  • Talk. Nothing breeds mistrust and rumors faster than not communicating with your team members. Share information about changes in staff health and related issues quickly and openly. But do more than that, share what steps you are taking to keep everyone safe.
  • Encourage a strong work ethic, and equally strong sick ethic. We all have days where we would prefer to do something else. However, most employees value having a good job and meaningful work. Let them know they are valued and that their absence is missed when they are gone. You should also emphasize the importance of knowing when to stay home if they are not well. Do not ostracize team members for missing work because of illness. Monitor employee health daily. If your facility is in a high-risk area, you may want to do a daily screening for employees to monitor if someone has a fever or other symptoms.
  • Cross-train employees. It’s beneficial to train your employees to do multiple jobs within your company. If a portion of your workforce becomes ill, cross-training will help ensure your business doesn’t have a drop in productivity or delayed shipments.
Man spraying disinfectant in warehouse

Keeping your warehouse clean and disinfected can mitigate risk to your warehouse workers. Washing high touch surfaces with soap and water then using a disinfectant is an effective method.

Limit Exposure

In the past, few warehouse operations required a high level of security. Everyone from employees to vendors and truckers often had free reign to go anywhere in the facility. This cannot and should not happen anymore. Require employees to limit travel to and from their primary work area. Escort vendors to locations within the facility and do not allow random movement without permission.

Truckers should remain in the shipping dock area and if they may need to deliver paperwork to the office, try to set up a different method of getting that paperwork. Perhaps a temporary office on the loading dock or having it scanned and emailed could be workarounds.

You cannot control what happens outside of your facility. However, by implementing these suggestions, you will minimize risk for your employees and your business.

Resources to Help

All businesses across the country have and continue to experience challenges from COVID-19. The following are some resources to help you navigate through and remain a viable business.

Government – Federal – The federal government offers many resources providing information on the COVID-19 pandemic and agencies providing a wide range of help, including loans, taxes and more. The list below is only a few of the major programs. Go to https://www.usa.gov/coronavirus for a complete listing.

Loans/Financial Assistance

Tax Relief

U.S. Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (effective April 1)

U.S. Emergency/Financial Assistance

State and local government resources. Your state and local governments may also offer resources to help various aspects of your operation.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce – The chamber also offers resources for small businesses at this link https://www.uschamber.com/co/small-business-coronavirus.

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