Shippers introducing new Covid-19 safety measures

by John Tenpenny

TORONTO, Ont. — Amid efforts to contain the Covid-19 virus, including swaths of Canadians remaining at home and restrictions on travel, shippers along with their carrier partners continue operating as an essential service, making sure things such as medical supplies and food remain on store shelves.

Bob Ballantyne, head of the Freight Management Association of Canada, which represents large companies in a range of sectors, said that while the situation is challenging supply chains, safety—for everyone—comes first.

“While remaining operational is mission critical for many shippers, so is the safety of their employees and their carrier partners.”

Polaris Transportation is among operations introducing Covid-19 protocols that apply to drivers. (Polaris photo)

Polaris Transportation Group, which specializes in LTL service between Canada and the U.S., in addition to having warehousing in the Toronto area, is doing its best to be pragmatic by introducing hygiene protocols for employees and partners to follow, according to president Dave Cox.

“From the physical perspective, inside our warehouse we are using disinfectant wipes on lift trucks and internal shipping areas, thoroughly cleaning anything being touched.”

In order to protects everyone, Polaris is initiating measures such as social distancing inside the warehouse, where they run three shifts, as well asking drivers to stay in their truck cabs until loading or unloading is complete.

“In the past, where we had an area where drivers could relax while being loaded or unloaded, we’re now asking them to stay in their cabs until we’re done,” says Cox.

He adds that everything they handle is on pallets. “We don’t handle any loose cargo, so there is minimal chance of any transmission with respect to loading and unloading at Polaris.”

In addition, the company is ensuring that anyone who is showing signs of illness in the workplace goes home to self-isolate. If a driver is showing any symptoms, “We won’t load or unload them.”

Precautions also extend to Polaris’ own drivers.

“Before, drivers would come in, complete their paperwork, hook up and go, but now, to minimize interaction for the safety of all, we’re completing a driver’s paperwork package in a separate area,” says Cox.

He thinks truck drivers are better equipped than other people when it comes to handling what’s being asked of everyone during the virus outbreak.

“In the past, where we had an area where drivers could relax while being loaded or unloaded, we’re now asking them to stay in their cabs until we’re done.”

Dave Cox, Polaris Transportation

“By the nature of the job they’re naturally isolated.”

Canadian retailers like Home Depot Canada have also set in motion plans to mitigate the potential impact of Covid-19 in distribution centers.

“Following guidance from Health Canada, we’re increasing the frequency of cleaning and general hygiene maintenance in stores and other locations,” said a Home Depot Canada spokesperson. “We’re also stepping up our efforts to disinfect high-traffic and high-touch areas like self-checkout, door handles, and bathrooms, as well as posting signage about handwashing and other preventative actions.

That extends to deliveries and in-home services offered by the company.

“If customers have an installation or other in-home service scheduled and want to postpone to a later date, we’ll be happy to reschedule,” said the spokesperson. “We’ve also advised all delivery and Home Services associates to follow everyday preventive actions including washing hands often, and disinfecting frequently touched objects.”

Some of the practices being implemented during the crisis may become the new normal, says Cox.

“Perhaps these are things, that when we get back to a somewhat more normal state, that are good practices and that we keep doing them.”

The following are measures that Polaris Transportation Group has implemented to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Containment best practices – Hygiene:

Initiated communications to employees to follow hygiene protocols, including:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding physical contact with employees.
  • Covering coughs or sneezes with tissue or elbow (not hand)
  • Sanitizer and soap are present in visible locations and refilled regularly. Also providing tissues and no-touch covered garbage disposals.
  • Surfaces like desks, door handles and objects like phones, keyboards and photocopiers are cleaned with disinfectant frequently throughout the day.
  • Provide employees with disposable wipes to clean their own workstations.

Social distancing measures:

  • Implemented a no-touch policy for our staff (No shaking hands or physical contact with customers or other staff members).
  • Instructed staff to stay home if they’re not feeling well.
  • Instructed staff that have travelled to stay home for 14 days and work remotely. This would include exposure to other family members who have travelled.
  • No group events or customer visits.
  • Following proper isolation protocols as recommended by WHO, CDC and Health Canada.

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