Mitigating Pandemic Driven Risk to Supply Chains
It is understandable that food manufacturers and packagers have an ongoing concern with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the safety and health of their workers and the integrity of their supply chain. While it has always been important to take stock of ensuring proper sanitation techniques, it is especially important now.
Information on best practices changes rapidly, causing concern, confusion, and misinformation. Cases have been reported in the news of employees protesting working conditions in warehouses, factories, and medical facilities. Employees have complained about a lack of appropriate sanitation and having to work alongside co-workers who may or may not have coronavirus.
Employers should communicate effectively with their workers about the virus and how employees can protect themselves. A well-informed workforce that understands sanitation procedures and best practices and that feels heard when providing feedback will move forward with safety and confidence. Here are five best practices for warehouse sanitation as outlined by Occupational Health & Safety:
1. Encourage regular handwashing.
The CDC recommends regular handwashing for 20 seconds with water and soap. Place signs everywhere as a reminder. The virus can survive on paperboard for 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel for two or three days, according to David Acheson, M.D., president and CEO of the Acheson Group (TAG), a global food safety consulting group. In an article in Packaging Digest entitled “Food Packagers Address Pandemic-Driven Risk to Supply Chains” Acheson maintains that the virus will be destroyed by most cleaning and disinfecting chemicals used in manufacturing plants.
- Inform employees of the importance of handwashing with water and soap for 20 seconds after touching anything they deem high risk. If this is not possible at the time, provide hand sanitizer (like the new palmpalm™ FDA-approved hand sanitizer).
- Give them the time to do so.
- Remind them to not touch the mouth, eyes, or nose.
- Remind them that if they need to sneeze/cough to do so into the arm.
- Provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves.
2. Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces in the workplace.
- Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched, commonly used surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, doorknobs, and the equipment that is used to handle and transport materials.
- Sweep the warehouse floor daily with disinfectants. Do it before and after warehouse operations to avoid employee injuries.
- Provide easy access to cleaning agents such as disposable wipes in these areas for employees to routinely use.
- Place signs in those areas as reminders. Employees may become so busy that they forget.
- Consider your company’s shift structure. Segregate groups if possible, practice social distancing, and clean common areas hourly.
- Exclude visitors other than essential ones and provide wellness checks for necessary visitors.
3. Encourage Sick Employees to Stay Home
When employees get sick at work, isolate them immediately, determine where they have been working in the past 48 hours, identify their close contacts at work, and send them home to self-isolate for 14 days until they are free of fever, signs of fever, and any other symptoms without fever-reducing or symptom-altering medicines.
4. Have an Open Dialogue with Employees
- Plan: Consider how to best decrease the impact of COVID-19 in your type of workplace. Identify objectives, such as reducing transmission, protecting those who are at higher risk, maintaining business operations, and minimizing adverse effects on the supply chain.
- Communicate your objectives. Train the warehouse personnel on the importance of sanitation, the processes, how to implement the processes, and how to train new staff. Give people specific roles with a checklist.
- Listen: Let workers know who to talk to when there are problems. Meet with your employees daily or at least once a week or whenever warranted to learn of any perceived or actual lapses in due diligence. Be open to listening at any time about workers concerns.
- Reward employees who comply when warehouse sanitation is working.
5. Talk with Employees About Travel Plans
Advise employees to check for travelers’ health notices. If destinations are heavily affected, suggest a postponement or cancellation.
We hope this article helps to serve as a best practice guide as you and your employees go about your work. We wish you the best of health and we honor you as essential part of our economy. If you are in need of sanitation supplies, give us a call. Trinity Packaging Supply provides face masks and hand sanitizers for you and your team.