Is your warehouse ready for all employees to return to work?

As key workers, large numbers of warehouse staff have reported to work throughout the pandemic and will be more than familiar with safety guidelines and restrictions. However, with the final legal restrictions likely to ease within the next six weeks, businesses may be considering returning to full capacity and bringing back any remaining furloughed staff or those who have been shielding for health reasons.
As part of our Return to Work series, we look at what measures businesses can put into place to ensure that warehouse workers can return to work safely and efficiently.

Provide each member of staff with a personal effects locker

Personal effects lockers are an effective way to improve security on site but can also help maintain high levels of hygiene by allowing each member of staff to be allocated their own basic work tools rather sharing with other colleagues. Employees can use their lockers to store their own box cutter, scanner or tablet, work gloves and masks as well as their wallet, keys and phone. Consider the most appropriate size. Do you want staff to be able to store a bag too? A bank of small lockers can be placed directly in the warehouse itself or in adjacent corridors without taking up too much space.

Separate work areas with barriers and screens

Barriers and screens are a simple way to separate work areas. Chain posts or belt barriers allow you to manage an effective traffic flow system and cordon off spaces quickly and easily. They are also ideal for hazard warning and for marking distinct areas of the warehouse, such as goods in or quality control, and will come in handy long after current restrictions are lifted. Perspex floor screens could be used between work areas where people work in close proximity, allowing you to reduce the minimum space needed between workstations and increase the number of staff working in a given area safely.

Communicate any new measures clearly

In order to ensure the workplace is Covid secure, use adhesive floor signs to indicate where people should stand, how far apart they should be from the nearest person and the direction of travel. Feet floor signals create clear one-way walkways while arrows are also effective for managing foot traffic. Use high-visibility, hazard warning tape or line marking paint to separate specific work areas so that employees can be allocated to a zone within the workplace to prevent people congregating in one area. Not only do these measures help ensure site safety under the current conditions, they are also a simple yet effective way to improve traffic flow and organise warehouse space in the long term.

Clean more frequently

Cleaning schedules should be adjusted to allow for more regular cleaning of the workspace and hand sanitiser dispensers should be placed in convenient locations throughout the warehouse and in entryways. It may be tempting to think that with Coronavirus rates decreasing these measures are no longer necessary, but the pandemic has highlighted the need for improving hygiene practices in all public spaces and large workplaces and has also shown us how simple it can be to do. Think about the number of staff who take sick leave during flu season or when a particularly bad cold is going around. By cleaning more frequently, encouraging hand washing and increasing personal space at workstations, businesses can be proactive in reducing the spread of any illness.

Think about mental health

Physical health and safety is only one part of the equation. Businesses should also consider employee mental health and ask what concerns staff may have about returning to the workplace. AJ Products encourages all employers to start an open dialogue with their employees about mental health and any worries they may have around returning to work. Their concerns may be directly related to the set up of the physical workspace but could also be about commuting to work, job security or the health of a loved one. Companies should take a broad view of what is classed as mental health support so they can help staff in the best possible way in both the short and long term. You can also consult our guide for employers about how to handle the psychological impact of returning to work.

Making some fairly simple changes to the workspace can have a significant impact on protecting employee health at work while ensuring the business can run at maximum capacity. We will look more at how businesses in all sectors can support employee wellbeing and mental health as we continue our Return to Work series.