Commentary: Keeping your people safe from COVID

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When I first sat down to write this blog, I had planned to write about keeping drivers safe from lifting and slip/trip/fall injuries. (I still plan to do that in a subsequent blog post). Then the nation was hit with COVID-19 and everything changed. While most businesses worry about employee safety, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated our taking additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus and keep employees healthy and safe.

Jim Ward, director, safety and compliance, Transervice LogisticsJim Ward, director, safety and compliance, Transervice Logistics

The first step in any safety program is communication. Employees must be informed of any safety programs and given appropriate materials that explain procedures. It is also a good idea to send frequent reminders especially when initiating new procedures, but even to reinforce old ones.

While it seems basic, if you have not done so already, develop a handout that explains the right way to wash hands. When it comes to COVID-19, there are specific recommended procedures for washing hands that include scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. While soap and water are the best way to prevent the virus from spreading, in some situations your employees don’t have access to soap and water. In those cases, make hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol available to them. However, make them aware that hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Social distancing can be challenging at a fleet location. At Transervice, in locations that are large enough, or have enough people passing through, we have placed X’s on the ground to designate 6-feet of distance. We also have limited occupancy in all break rooms. At some locations, again depending on size, drivers have been instructed to call dispatch to find out how many people are in the break room before they head over there. As we have all seen, it is not uncommon for drivers to hang around the shop or the Shop Foreman’s office. Drivers are now discouraged from visiting the shop beyond making a write-up for a necessary repair.

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  • COVID-19: The Insider Take on Transportation Disruption
  • The Essential Guide to Outperforming a Down Market
  • Disaster recovery: Lessons learned in the bounce back from near-ruin
  • On the Front Lines: How to Keep Drivers –and Keep Them Safe – in the Age of COVID-19
  • Breaches & Ransom! Why Hackers Think Fleets Are Easy Targets – especially during a pandemic

Since just about every surface inside the cab, even the door handles and glad-hands, could be a source of transmission of the virus, add (or beef up) cab cleaning requirements. Before starting a shift, drivers should wipe down all surfaces they are likely to touch using an appropriate cleaning product or hot soapy water. Surfaces to clean include the steering wheel, gear shift or selector, all driver switches and controls as well as door handles (interior and exterior) and glass. Bedding and linens should be laundered regularly. Manufacturer instructions should be followed to clean electronic devices. Consideration should be given to having cabs sanitized with some frequency, especially in slip seat operations.

Drivers are not the only ones that need extra protection during the pandemic. Don’t forget about technicians. Technicians should wear protective gloves. They also should thoroughly wipe down surfaces that they are likely to touch while performing service on the truck, especially door handles, steering wheels, gear shifts, and the like. And of course, they also should thoroughly wash their hands after the job is completed.

When it comes to COVID-19 it makes sense to take precautions and wash your hands thoroughly after touching any object. We also invested in masks for our people as another layer of protection.

While we acknowledge that the cleaning procedures can take a bit of time, it is time well spent if it keep your employees safe and healthy. We continue to monitor the situation and follow the recommendations issued by the Centers For Disease Control because not only is trucking an essential industry, but our employees and customers are essential too.

Jim Ward is the Director of Safety and Compliance for Transervice Logistics, and has been working for Transervice for 29 years with the last 15 years being in the Safety Department. He is experienced with all aspects of OSHA’s General Industry regulations, all DOT regulations as well as many EPA regulations. He is passionate about the desire to keep his fellow workers safe as well as keeping Transervice compliant with all Federal and State regulations.