How to Follow COVID-19 Sanitation Guidelines for Warehouses

March 27, 2020 in Safety and Inspections

How to Follow COVID-19 Sanitation Guidelines for Warehouses

The workers are going home…

The workers are going home…

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah! 

Those are lyrics from My Name is Jonas, an upbeat sounding song from the ‘90s. Despite its cheery vibe, the underlying theme is actually quite sad and similar to what the world is currently experiencing with remote work.

Under typical circumstances, many employees would embrace the opportunity to work from home in their pajamas. However, the global events transpiring over the past few weeks have been anything but normal. 

Last week, U.S. citizens began observing a “Stay at Home” mandate in many states to “flatten the curve” of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Some insiders predict the 15-day quarantine period may extend several months. 

While most desk employees can accomplish tasks from anywhere with a WiFi connection, the nation’s 12.8 million manufacturing workers must show up for work. The latter group of deskless workers accounts for 8.4 percent of the total U.S. workforce. 

Warehouse operational managers now face a unique challenge during this uncertain time: How can we effectively move inventory while keeping everyone safe? This is a question many essential businesses are working through today.

Warehouse management teams must adopt the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended cleaning guidelines, in conjunction with modifying work processes for greater self-isolation amongst employees. While there are no official cleaning guidelines for warehouses, the CDC has issued specific cleaning recommendations for businesses and employers.

In this article, we will summarize the CDC’s Best Practices for keeping the common areas of the warehouse safe, clean and disinfected. We’ll also share some tips for streamlining procedures, boosting staff communication, and improving worker compliance. 

Let’s get started: 

Sanitation Guidelines: How to Implement CDC Sanitation Best Practices for Warehouses

Before we begin, let’s review the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. According to the CDC, the terms are not the same: 

  • Cleaning is defined as the removal of dirt and impurities, including germs, from surfaces. Cleaning alone does not kill germs, but it decreases their number and, therefore, reduces the risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfecting is defined as the process of using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. But killing germs remaining on a surface after cleaning further reduces any risk of spreading infection.

Coronaviruses can live on surfaces for hours in the right environment, according to the National Institutes of Health. For this reason, businesses are instructed to regularly clean and disinfect common areas. This brings us to our first step to implementing proper sanitation guidelines for warehouses: 

1. Stock Up on Approved Supplies

sanitation guidelines for warehouses

Common areas, forklift interiors, restrooms, and frequently touched surfaces should be routinely disinfected with approved cleaners. The most effective cleaning products are diluted household bleach, cleaning liquids containing at least 70 percent alcohol, or EPA-registered household disinfectants. 

Experts recommend a two-step process of wiping down workplace surfaces before disinfecting using one of the following solutions: 

  • Diluted Bleach Mixture: 5 tablespoons  (1/3rd cup) of bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.
  • Alcohol Solutions: Must contain at least 70 percent alcohol. 
  • EPA-Registered Disinfectants:  Click here for a list.
  • Products containing Sodium hypochlorite, Isopropanol, and Ethanol are considered the most effective according to the CDC.

**Tips for bleach activations: Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. 

All workers should be provided with respiratory masks, latex gloves, and instructions on when to use them. 

2. Update Cleaning Checklists

Next, it’s imperative that operational managers update existing sanitation guidelines for warehouses to reflect both CDC and local government recommendations. 

Your checklist should clearly answer questions like: 

  • What types of cleaners must be used? 
  • Which surfaces and items should be disinfected? 
  • How often should things be wiped down and when? 
  • What safety rules should we put in place for workers? 
  • How will we remind workers of community guidelines? 
  • How can we increase air circulation in common areas? 

When it comes to warehouse policies, operational managers sometimes struggle with compliance. Keeping track of who performed the last safety walk and when using paper processes often results in compliance breakdowns. For this reason, it’s important that all warehouse employees A). Understand the importance of the task at hand and B). Complete assignments within a documented system of accountability. 

If your warehouse is still relying on paper work orders, consider switching to a digital solution like MaintainX. The MaintainX app allows managers to create sanitation procedures, track work history, establish standard operating procedures, manage assets, and maintain foolproof accountability with digital audit trails. 

However, the app’s most surprisingly useful feature just might be integrated chat functionality. Operational managers and workers can maintain 2-way communication as new information arises throughout the day via in-app chat and commenting on Work Orders.  

3. Review Warehouse Sanitation Guidelines 

Hold regular meetings with workers to rehash hygienic guidelines. You can also want to place illustrative posters in common areas that remind everyone of workplace sanitation expectations, such as:  

When to Sanitize Hands

  • After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After using the restroom
  • Before eating or preparing food
  • After touching one’s face or hair

Other Sanitation Tips

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, hair, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover coughs with the inside of elbows
  • Wash hands for 30 seconds with warm, soapy water

For a more comprehensive list of recommendations to include in your sanitation guidelines for warehouses, check out the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers. Also, consult OSHA’s Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.

Maintain a Safe Warehouse Environment

Manufacturing is the heart of America’s workforce. Our warehouse teams keep products moving. And they ensure we receive food, clothes, and other necessities when we need them most. We should do everything we can to keep these hardworking people safe, clean and comfortable. Everyone can stay on the same page by following documented warehouse management policies.

We hope you have found this summary useful. If you think MaintainX could help your organization streamline processes with digital work orders, we’re here to help. Click here to get started. 

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