As the novel coronavirus makes its impact around the world, frontline workers have been acknowledged and appreciated. Rightly so, retail workers have been regarded as essential alongside healthcare workers and first responders. Retail employees that work in stockrooms and on loading docks especially play an important role in ensuring that people continue to receive the food and supplies they need as the pandemic continues.
It’s essential to protect stockroom and loading dock workers during this time, especially as more businesses reopen, because the nature of their job requires them to be in close proximity with other people, increasing their chance for being exposed to the virus. Due to this, OSHA has issued an alert and provided COVID-19 guidance for stockroom and loading dock workers. Employers can implement OSHA’s recommended safety measures to protect their workers in the retail industry.
Minimize Contact With the Public
One of the most effective safety measures for workers who perform stockroom and loading duties is to limit their interaction with other people, whether that’s delivery drivers, other retail employees, or the public. Until there is effective treatment for COVID-19, the CDC has established that social distancing continues to be the most effective way to prevent further transmission of the virus. Stockroom and loading dock workers need to keep their six feet of distance as much as possible.
There are several measures that employers may take to help their employees achieve this, including:
- Having workers stock displays during slow business periods. This may involve changes to typical schedules and having stock workers complete their tasks overnight, in the early morning, or in the evenings.
- Shortening overall business hours so employees have time to stock shelves without worrying about customers. Many grocery stores have limited their hours and either open later or close earlier to provide their workers time to safely restock.
- Limiting customer capacity in stores. This makes it much easier for employees to complete their tasks while staying socially distanced.
- Coordinating with delivery companies and other vendors to ensure that workers do not need to have contact with delivery drivers. Rather than speaking in person and signing for a shipment, other solutions can be implemented to refrain from in-person interaction.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment
Currently, the CDC recommends that everyone should wear face coverings while they are out in public, including while they are at work. For stockroom and loading dock workers, having face coverings is especially important to reduce the likelihood of spreading respiratory diseases as they complete their tasks. Speak with your employees to see if they are comfortable wearing masks and if they would prefer to do so; face coverings are recommended but not required.
Other types of PPE such as gloves may be provided to workers, as well as barriers so it’s possible to physically separate themselves from customers if they must stock during open business hours. If measures cannot be taken to reduce physical contact, the next step is to provide your workers with the equipment they need to stay safe.
Implement Cleaning Supplies and Protocols
Now more than ever, it is important to develop and implement a consistent cleaning routine to disinfect shared objects or surfaces, and to encourage workers to adopt healthy hygiene habits. For stockroom and loading dock workers, a cleaning protocol can be established that includes:
- Disinfecting tools that must be shared, after each time they are used.
- Discouraging the sharing of equipment or tools.
- If possible, propping open doors so workers may enter and exit areas without constantly touching surfaces.
- If stocking freezers, refrigerators, and anything else that needs to be opened and closed, wiping down the door handle and other touched surfaces after tasks are completed.
Workers should receive the cleaning supplies they need to adhere to a cleaning and disinfecting routine. This includes EPA-approved disinfectants, wipes, and an alcohol-based hand rub so they may clean their hands. Some companies are providing places for stockroom and loading dock workers to wash their hands with soap and water to ensure that hands are effectively clean.
Ensuring the Safety of All Workers
Stockroom and loading dock workers often complete tasks in basements, backrooms, and storage areas away from the customer’s line of sight. However, these employees are not invisible, and they are doing their part as essential workers to help provide people with the products they need during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s important to protect all employees’ health and safety. Encourage your stockroom and loading dock employees to stay home if they feel sick, and to report any concerns they may have.
OSHA is committed to protecting American workers, especially during the pandemic. This is one of a series of alerts the agency is releasing that is intended to help keep workers safe in specific industries. For more information, you may use OSHA’s fact sheet for protecting workers during a pandemic as reference.
- Protecting Agriculture Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Food Safety: Protecting Processing Workers from COVID-19
- OSHA Guidance: Protecting Oil and Gas Workers During COVID-19
- Resuming Elective Healthcare During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- OSHA Issues Stronger Workplace Guidance on COVID-19
- Loading Dock Safety
- Reopening Retail: Social Distancing for Shoppers
- Promoting Social Distancing in the Workplace
- How Restaurants Can Practice Social Distancing