Effective Guidance to combat Covid-19 in the Warehouse Workspace

Thursday, 4th June 2020

The logistics sector has been one of the industries most affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the industries most affected by the Covid-19 crisis has been the logistics sector. Transporting goods, whether locally, nationally or internationally requires a multitude of ‘contact points’ from receiving and packaging parcels to internal transfers, sorting rooms to loading bays, and then of course the delivery of items to their intended destinations.

For warehouse managers there is also the added complication of needing to remain up to date with the latest guidelines and regulations from Government, as they go about the daily task of remaining operational whilst keeping staff and clients safe.

To help clarify some of the guidance, below is a summary of the most practical and effective steps that management can take to make the workplace as safe as possible.

  1. Conduct a practical assessment that identifies the areas of risk in prioritised order, covering working areas, restrooms, break areas and entrances and exits. Conduct this process with the elected health and safety representatives in your business and with key staff, as these are the people who will most easily be able to identify aspects of greatest risk.
  2. Produce a clearly worded guidance document for publication on your website and for printing and displaying in common areas in the workplace.
  3. Implement the following key steps in order:
  • In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.
  • Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (keeping people 2m apart wherever possible)
  • Where the 2m social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, do the following:
    • Increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning
    • keep the activity time involved as short as possible
    • use screens or barriers to separate people from each other
    • use back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
    • reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)
    • Finally, if people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.

In this assessment you should have particular regard to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

For warehouse environments in particular, the following steps can help meet the Government’s guidance as above:

  1. Implement a one-way system by moving racks, shelving and walkways wherever practical to avoid colleagues passing each other in close proximity, and face-to-face. You may need to implement new signage to guide staff and visitors correctly.
  2. Change shift patterns so that fewer people are on-site at the same time. Allow for a gap between shift changes so that cleaning and social distancing protocols can be maintained.
  3. Provide as many hand sanitising stations as necessary to allow staff to clean their hands whenever they can. 

There is further advice from Government at <https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/factories-plants-and-warehouses>, with downloadable resources to help you implement comprehensive strategies and policies to combat Covid-19.