If you decide to remain open and continue warehouse operations during the UK Coronavirus lockdown, you should have a strict no questions asked self-isolation policy where any member of staff exhibiting symptoms immediately calls in sick, or if they are at work immediately goes home, and follows government advice.
Those who can work from home should do so. For instance physically picking a product off a shelf and packing it requires a worker in the warehouse. However the person producing picking lists and co-ordinating operations may well be able to work from home. Minimise staff on site where ever possible and make full use of the technology you have in place.
You should ensure that all staff can immediately wash their hands on entry into the building, on exit, preferably close to the entrance and if possible without having to open and close internal doors to get to and from the wash facilities. There’s no point washing your hands if you immediately touch a door handle everyone coming in has also touched. If this isn’t possible then hand sanitiser is an obvious option. Naturally they should wash hands regularly throughout the day as well but especially when moving from one work station to another.
You should also be considering warehouse operations cleaning routines – many warehouses are simply never cleaned but it’s now essential. All packing tables, tape guns, knifes and other tools should be preferably not shared and definitely wiped down with disinfectant at the end of each shift. Anything that is regularly touched should be sanitised as often as possible.
Flexible working hours to enable staff to travel at times that’s possible and safe is a prerequisite. If staff can drive or cycle to work that’s much safe than using public transport. We would encourage anyone who has staff forced to use public transport to consider assigning them work that can be completed from home or if that’s not possible putting them on furlough with the government supporting you to keep them employed with up to 80% of their wages as a grant.
Consider either longer or shorter shifts. Warehouses are not only busy places but they can become very crowded. Whilst most of your warehouse will be empty, normal warehouse operations will create bottlenecks for instance at the packing tables. Consider 2m spacing between staff at all times as a pre-requisite even if this leaves some packing stations unmanned.
It may be possible to split your staff into two shifts working longer hours on alternate days. This would lower the number of staff in the warehouse at any one time enabling you to still continue to operate and at the same time reduce the amount of travel time for your employees.
Longer opening hours could also assist enabling some staff to commence work early in the morning with a new shift starting when they finish and working late into the evening. Anything you can do to reduce the total number of employees in your premises at any one time is a step you should be considering.
Finally, as the business owner you should already have consider what will happen if you yourself have to self-isolate. If you have a manager who can run the business including opening and closing the premises in your absence you should work from home on alternate days.
Ideally your business would shut, but the reality is that for many self employed not going to work means no income until government assistance is announced and even if you are a limited company there are still bills such as rent that have to be paid. We understand that many will choose to keep their businesses open and the government used the word ‘encouraged’ to refer to online retail. If you do stay open, take as many steps as possible to reduce contact within your business and ensure your employees all know what’s expected and how you are changing operations to keep them as safe as possible.
We’re sure you have some additional suggestions as to how to run a warehouse during the Coronavirus lock down – let us know additional tips in comments below.