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How to run warehouse operations during Coronavirus lockdown

By Chris Dawson March 24, 2020 - 11:12 am

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.

Further Reading

  • gordon
    2 weeks ago

    Why are warehouses still open thay need to close come on boris sort it you are putting lives to risk tell them to close now

    • Smita
      2 weeks ago

      I think qarehouses should be on lock doqn becuse anyone whomcomes into work not knowing they got can spresd and then warehouse qorker can take it home to there family and elder peole who they live with

    • tom
      2 weeks ago

      i want to no why he ant shut them at mo ive been told ive got go bk to my ware house and all we sell is golf stuff is it realy that esential considering golf courses are shut i think the govement wants us 2 die sorry loosing my faith and fight 4 this country now my mrs has eperlepsi and has 2 isolate4 12 weeks but cant cos we need money

  • Jess Todds
    2 weeks ago

    I work in a warehouse, I’m meant to be in work tomorrow but I’m having to self isolate but I only get 7 days with pay. I have a low immune system due to the medication I take and I’m scared to return to work as I fear it’ll only get worse as time goes on. I offered to use my holidays to self isolate and was told no. I don’t know what to do.

  • Elouise
    2 weeks ago

    I’m pregnant and in the vulnerable category, my partner has to work in a warehouse and I’m so so scared, he says he needs the money for our family, please can we shut the warehouses please

  • Daz
    2 weeks ago

    They keep avoiding the question being asked by so many.
    What businesses are allowed to stay open and which ones should shutdown.
    Lots of non essential businesses are still business as usual and it’s putting people at risk.
    The government need to clear things up and stop avoiding the question.

  • Andy
    2 weeks ago

    I’m currently working in a warehouse that is refusing to shut down till it’s forced to. I can’t afford to not to because our boss says if we chose not to go in we won’t get payed. I’m also the only person in my house hold now leaving the house. So I feel like it’s myself now putting my family at risk.

    Please borris bring stronger rules to close unnecessary warehouses at this worrying time of Coronavirus

  • Emilija
    2 weeks ago

    I work at the warehouse where we sell clothes and shoes. We got told that we will remain open. The problem is also working in the office of the warehouse where we have drivers coming in and out that travel from different countries.. Who knows if they are sick or not? There are so many people in the warehouse, if one of us gets sick, it can easily be spread to hundreds of other people without anyone knowing about it!
    Im just very disappointed in some businesses that are clearly putting their profit first before anyones health..

    It should be a complete lockdown with ONLY ESSENTIAL businesses open like food and drug stores. No exception to any other stores or workplaces. If we really want to save ourself we HAVE to stay home and close everything that is not needed to be open. At the end of the day, what are we waiting for? Why are we ignoring such a horrible problem and just ‘hoping’ for the best, when there is a very simple solution so slow this down. STAY HOME…

  • Claudia
    2 weeks ago

    My husband is working in a warehouse that makes luxury items. There are people with colds there. The business refuses to close down. Im so angry that profit is being put above peoples health. This virus is real. One of my family members died of it on monday.

  • Brenda
    2 weeks ago

    I work in a warehouse that sells jewellery and house hold goods staff are working picking but it’s hard to keep a distance they have now decided to sell hand things masks so they can say it’s medical all managers are working at home no Hr either j BAD

  • STEPHEN
    2 weeks ago

    Government are being very hypocritical here.They have said that clothing is “non-essential” .They have said that retail outlets and business premises selling non-essential items should close.And yet they have also (apparently) said that on-line shopping is “encouraged” thus enabling all the big fashion chains not only to continue to drag their workers into enclosed spaces (containers in warehouses etc) but also to then claim that this is in-line with Government advice??
    So much for “stay at home,protect the NHS,save lives” Boris you total two-faced bullshitter.We need clarity about what is and is not “essential “work, justifying commuter journeys, and we need it before our relatives die!!! Incidentally I understand that RIVER ISLAND have now set an example by closing their warehouses there may be others .

    • Fiona McCartin
      2 weeks ago

      I completely AGREE with you. They might want to consider buying the colour black (if they get the chance to wear it).

      All warehouses delivering non essential items (not food or medical supplies) should be closed this is how the virus is spreading.

      The government and warehouse are putting the workers and their families lives at risk with the Coronavirus Bill stating online retailers could still operate.

      Let these people be allowed to ‘Stay Home’ and ‘Stay Safe’, allowances need to be made for them in the Coronavirus Bill. Pay them and let them ‘stay home’, they are worried out of their minds for their families and own lives.

      PROFIT comes first for these big companies such as Next, Very, ASOS, etc.

      Look at how the Coronavirus in US is affecting Amazon workers.

  • I am in the same position we work in a warehouse selling non essential items , Boris has encouraged these places to stay open we can’t stay safe or keep our family’s safe in so scared to go to work

  • 1 week ago

    I work at a paint manufacturer the company is saying this is essential because it supplies hardware stores which are classed as essential but my understanding is hardware stores are only open to provide emergency electrical and plumbing supplies not paint
    My company is America’s owned and clearly doesn’t care about its workforce its profit before life one final point is management and directors are working from the safety of their homes when warehouse staff are forced to work in unhygienic conditions and no chance of implementing the 2 metre rule
    God help.it doesn’t look good for us

  • Jon
    1 week ago

    I work at ASOS
    And they are only interested in profit, they don’t care about any of their workers.
    There’s even a letter from the local (Barnsley Council) encorouging us to stay open, as it’s good for Barnsley’s economy.
    We don’t get told anything, we haven’t had a brief now for 3 days.
    They just don’t care….

  • Dear Chris, thank you for sharing with us this elaborate blog consisting of instructions and guidelines on how one could efficiently manage running a warehouse during this pandemic Covid-19 times. I should say it was a very commendable read and each point mentioned has been well analyzed. Penning such valuable instructions will serve best when implemented in all working warehouses will help employee stay protected and industry run smoothly.

  • 1 week ago

    Sujatha, do you work for Boris? Or is it you just don’t care about the spread of the virus in warehouses (breeding grounds for the virus). Or maybe you have shares in these companies. Probably the latter.

  • Pat
    1 week ago

    My boyfriend works in a ware house that sells cleaning equipment i have asthma and a low ammune system i am worried he will give to me but we need the money what can i do to stay safe i am so scared when he comes home

  • Col c
    6 days ago

    Agreed big disappointment on all companies trading in non essential goods not just the welfare of staff in the warehouses but other key worker on the commute and in family households, delivery drivers of all categories which im sure could be utilised in a much more needed goods transport.
    Noticed next has shut its warehouse which the right thing to do and will be shopping with them in the future doubtful on the rest.
    I do hope someone will report fully into this naming and shaming all companies showing disregard for workers and trying to profit on the situation and possibly class action law suits if there is a link to these places and deaths.

  • Col c
    6 days ago

    If employees do happen to have covid19 and have touched your package virus survives on cardboard 24hrs but plastic can be much longer so possibly arriving straight to your door, shop wisely.

  • D
    2 days ago

    I do not agree that Hermes are following the correct government guidelines, they are delivering unnecessary items at double the rate and hardly any food or medication. There is no social distancing or face masks provided to warehouse workers. It’s wrong and warehouse staff are cannon fodder also it’s the only department (warehouse staff) that I have not heard being praised yet publicly by any official figure.

  • There is a brilliant article about Amazon US selling anything but essential and medical supplies. One lady says she is risking her life to deliver ping pong bats in rich neighbourhoods. at the following:

    https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-sends-sex-toys-dolls-despite-pledge-ship-essential-goods-2020-4?amp&r=US&IR=T

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