How delivery fleets can protect staff during the COVID-19 outbreak


With COVID-19 causing turmoil and lockdown across many sectors, logistics has become even more important to keep things running. Here, Kelly Friel, from tool and PPE supplier ZORO, shares advice on protecting fleet staff in a time of unprecedented risk and demand.

There’s little doubt that COVID-19 has turned the world upside down in the last few weeks. Many of the country’s industries have seen a devastating impact, with revenue dropping through the floor and lay-offs inevitable. For the logistics sector, however, the effect has been the opposite as people stay home during lockdown and order online.

This extraordinary demand has started to be reflected in the numbers. For instance, the growth rate for online grocery sales in Ireland for the four weeks to the 22 March was 27%, the highest shopper spend ever recorded [KANTER], while grocery distributor Musgrave have announced they are hiring hundreds of new staff to process the surge in online orders.

With the lockdown set to continue for the foreseeable future, your fleet could be set for its busiest period yet. But while you need to do everything possible to keep up with demand, it’s important to remember that your staff will be working in high-risk conditions and you will need to protect them accordingly. Here are some safety tips to help your fleet operate in these challenging times.

Keep up with your vehicle maintenance

Under normal circumstances, you would always keep your vehicles maintained and roadworthy to ensure the safety of your staff, but, with the pressure and demand that has arrived with COVID-19, you might feel tempted to overlook routine checks to keep your fleet moving.

However, even in the current pandemic, it’s still important to make sure your fleet is being properly maintained. Not only is this vital for the safety of your drivers, it is a very important factor in keeping up with demand — a vehicle off the road for a short period while it’s checked over is preferable to it being completely sidelined due to a major fault, after all. With quite a few mechanics not working and supply chains for replacement parts backed up, it’s better not to take the risk.

Does a third party take care of your fleet’s maintenance? You’ll need to keep in contact with them so that you’re up to date with their plans during the crisis. If they have closed down, you’ll need to find support elsewhere from another firm or employ an in-house mechanic, which shouldn’t be too hard given the rising levels of unemployment.

Supply the correct PPE to your delivery staff

Like maintaining your vehicles, protecting your employees is essential if you want them to be fit and healthy enough to run your fleet. As an employer, you have a duty of care to your staff, as stipulated in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Regulations 2007, and this extends to supplying them with the correct PPE for the job. This is especially prescient during the current health crisis, where the right equipment could be the essential last line of defence against infection.

Two of the most important items for protection from COVID-19 are face masks and gloves, as they can provide a barrier to direct infection for both your employees and your customers. Ensure that any equipment supplied fits your staff correctly, is comfortable, and fit for purpose (CE marked). Also consider providing hand sanitiser so your drivers can disinfect on the go.

You should also deliver training on the use of this PPE, as there can be some misunderstandings on how it should be used. For instance, cross-contamination can still occur when wearing gloves if they touch a location that will later be touched with bare hands. Hand washing or sanitising should still take place as often as it would if no gloves were worn.

Ensure your drivers are complying with Government guidelines

The Government has issued instructions for the general population to ensure they remain isolated, but they also provided specific advice for key supply chain workers, including transport drivers. As an employer, you should make sure that your workforce is aware and following these measures, as well as providing any facilities and equipment necessary to do so.

A big part of this is making sure that drivers practice social distancing on the job at all times, whether they are at the depot or making a delivery. This means having as little contact as possible with other staff and members of the public, staying at least 2m away. Drivers are also required to familiarise themselves with coronavirus symptoms and stop working and isolate themselves if they become ill.

You should also try to set up hand washing stations wherever you think they may be necessary so that it is easy for your drivers to follow the Government’s guidance on regular handwashing.

The Government has provided guidelines on the cleaning of HGVs, which should be followed by your staff. Doing so will help to prevent contamination from surface contact, as well as protecting other members of the team. As an employer, you need to ensure your workforce has access to the necessary supplies for the cleaning of vehicles.

Follow these tips and you will be best placed to protect your staff and keep your fleet running through the COVID-19 crisis.

Note: The advice here is only intended as a guide and you should refer to the latest Government and Health Services Executive direction for full information.

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