The Barry County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance is proud to support Barry County’s local businesses. See our COVID-19 Resources page for more information about navigating your business through the pandemic.
Warehouse safety has taken the spotlight in recent months as distributors see unprecedented demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. While major players like Amazon deploy tens of thousands of coronavirus tests to front-line workers, smaller distributors are wondering what they can do to protect employees and customers while preserving their bottom line.
Safety doesn’t need to come at the sake of success for local warehouses and distributors. With these cost-effective safety tips, you can protect your business during COVID-19 and beyond.
Basic COVID-19 Safety for Warehouses
Basic COVID-19 safety doesn’t cost a lot. These simple practices go a long way to keeping warehouse employees safe:
- Restrict site visitors.
- Check employee temperatures upon arrival.
- Require face masks and avoid face touching.
- Maintain a minimum of 6 feet distance between employees.
- Disinfect equipment, workstations, and high-touch surfaces.
- Provide hand washing and sanitizing stations.
Companies that perform routine temperature checks should take care to protect employee confidentiality and safety. This can be done by completing checks in employee vehicles rather than requiring staff to line up. Alternatively, companies can opt for self-screening forms that ask employees to take their temperature and assess symptoms before reporting to work.
The Role of Warehouse Management
Successfully implementing these changes hinges on warehouse management. That’s because it’s not enough to simply provide protective equipment and hand wash stations. Warehouse managers must actively adapt the workplace to support safe habits. This may include changes such as:
- Adjusting shifts and/or expanding facility hours to reduce on-site staff.
- Modifying the warehouse layout to allow for social distancing.
- Adding floor decals to indicate social distancing guidelines.
- Using printable posters from Barry County Chamber of Commerce to reinforce safety procedures.
- Erecting physical barriers between workstations.
- Adopting two-way radios for communication.
- Scheduling time to disinfect between shifts.
Managers can find additional recommendations for warehouses from the Centers for Disease Control.
Poor implementation of these changes threatens both employee safety and a warehouse’s profits. When employees are distracted or disorganized, they’re prone to mistakes. That’s why warehouse managers need to look at the big picture of the business’s operations when adapting to the current pandemic. That includes planning warehouse layout, organizing picking stations, supplying employees with the right equipment, and using analytics to maximize visibility throughout the supply chain. Together, these management practices keep a warehouse running smoothly.
Training Employees for the New Normal
A warehouse manager’s efforts are wasted without employee training. Thorough and reinforced training is necessary to change the workplace culture in busy warehouses where workers may be accustomed to getting close to one another to communicate, sharing equipment, or congregating in communal areas. This can be accomplished by walking employees through their “new normal,” including an updated floor plan, location of handwashing stations, masks, and other supplies, and changes to their workflow. Warehouses may opt to appoint a representative to whom employees can turn with COVID-19-related questions.
Safety training isn’t a one-time effort. To prevent caution fatigue, managers must be proactive about reinforcing training through visual cues and ongoing communication. It’s also important to make employees feel comfortable taking sick leave if they experience COVID-19 symptoms. Establishing a non-punitive sick leave policy and actively encouraging employees to use it mitigates the impact of a potential outbreak whether due to coronavirus or a future illness.
Investing in safety during the pandemic pays dividends for local distributors. Not only does keeping COVID-19 out ensure warehouses remain operational during the pandemic, but adopting safer practices today transforms a workplace’s culture for tomorrow. If you need help finding a path forward for your business, reach out to the Barry County Economic Development Alliance where you’ll find local help for starting and growing your business.