Protecting Employees from COVID-19 Through Warehouse Cleaning

It’s no secret that warehouses and their employees are facing quite the conundrum: their operations are essential for keeping the economy in its fragile state moving forward, and yet workers run the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 despite companies following CDC recommendations and warehouse cleaning best practices.

Many warehouses took immediate action, implementing staggered lunch breaks for workers, creating new sanitizing protocols, and enforcing social distancing rules. Many warehouses created policies in the event a worker tested positive for COVID-19 and have increased warehouse cleaning frequency to prevent the spread altogether.

But in some instances, the ongoing interaction between warehouse workers and increased item handling to support demand — and the apparent absence of shut-down decisions from leadership — is causing public relations problems. Amazon workers in particular have made headlines over the past couple of weeks for reporting a lack of cleaning support and other protective measures as the retail giant prioritizes

While many warehouses are essential for people and businesses to continue receiving the products they need for operations and daily life, it’s critical that warehouse leaders consider the hardware and accessories that workers use and take steps to clean them (and frequently) to ensure safety. This is in addition to any standard and deep cleaning policies and procedures already in place, which might not take these devices into consideration.

Warehouse Cleaning Tips for Hardware and Accessories

1. Wearables

Wearable accessories such as wrist straps, hand straps, hardware belts, headgear, and more are all part of the equipment warehouse workers need to do their jobs efficiently. However, because this equipment comes into direct contact with workers, it’s just as likely to transfer the virus as person-to-person interaction.

Warehouse leaders should consider enforcing a policy of regularly cleaning the devices and preventing workers from sharing any accessories. This means specific accessories should be assigned to workers throughout the duration of the pandemic and even beyond until it subsides and a full cleaning can be completed. In some instances, leaders might consider disposing of certain accessories to further minimize the chance of spread.

Additionally, anything pertaining to headsets for voice communications should not be shared. Consider replacing foam covers for microphones and earpieces more often as well to ensure workers aren’t exposed to them long-term.

2. Handhelds

Whereas less costly wearable accessories can be utilized in bulk and potentially disposed of now or after the pandemic, handheld devices are different. Often, warehouses may not have sufficient devices to allow workers to use dedicated devices. Furthermore, employees often come into contact with locker systems used for device storage, recharging, and security — meaning there are even more chances for the spread of disease.

Leaders must look beyond facilities themselves to the devices employees are using on a daily basis. A potential policy worth considering is requiring every employee using a handheld to disinfect the device at the end of the workday, and to allow the device disinfectant to remain on the device for the recommended amount of time so as to increase the chance of any bacteria or viral elements being fully eliminated. The entire device should be disinfected (screen, keyboard, holsters, etc.) along with any peripherals, accessories, and charging stations.

3. Environmental Considerations

An effective warehouse cleaning program will of course address the various surfaces that workers come in contact with throughout the day. But it’s important to look deeper than that. In addition to disinfecting equipment lockers, work stations, equipment control panels, and so on, warehouse leaders should consider the various systems that circulate air, capture and store dust, and other air quality systems.

Cleaning and maintenance should be increased on these systems. While COVID cannot withstand high temperatures, dust control systems could potentially retrieve dust particulates — organic and inorganic — over time. Cleaning these systems (especially air quality) is an extra measure of protection companies can take to ensure the safety of their warehouse workers as well as any workers in office spaces that might be connected to a warehouse.

4. Disinfect Heavy Equipment

Forklifts, floor cleaners, and other heavy equipment in use within your warehouse facilities should also be thoroughly disinfected. This is critical for areas where workers touch, sit, or otherwise interact, such as steering wheels, operating controls, steps, ladders, handlebars, and so on. Keeping these surfaces clean will help prevent disease spread.

5. Provide the Necessary PPE

Personal protective equipment beyond hardhats and goggles will be critical now and in the future. Expect to see more PPE in use such as latex gloves, masks, and more being used in facilities where workers come into contact with one another frequently.

Consider Contactless Solutions for the Future

While contactless equipment is nothing new, it will be worth exploring — both to prevent the spread of the disease now and to help mitigate similar incidents in the future. Examples include robotics for completely hands-free picking, voice-directed hardware, RFID solutions, and more that ensure employees do not have to touch specific devices, control panels, and so on yet can still maintain high levels of productivity.

Additionally, because the disease has caused economic uncertainty, many industries may have to consider new procurement options for their warehouse hardware and equipment. While retail has boomed as demand for key products increased, other segments haven’t fared so well.

Fortunately, other options such as equipment rental, refurbished equipment, and even Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), which provides a full enterprise hardware program for a more manageable monthly fee, are all worth exploring. Learn more about these options and others that are available at TRG.

We’re Here to Help

As a global leader in mobile hardware solutions and services for mobile computing, retail technology, and barcode printing, TRG remains ready to help you meet your warehouse needs. Whether you need support now to meet demand, or you’re looking to replace existing hardware for future safety, our expert team is here to help. Reach out to us below to learn more about our products and services.