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Not Dressed Up and Everywhere to Go: COVID Safe Distribution and Logistics

July 6th, 2020 by Tom Simmons

Before we knew what we were in for, I ordered some clothes. Part of what I do is manage HRP’s company branded apparel, collecting, placing, and distributing orders for employees. It’s a smooth process normally, but this time there was a bit of a challenge. How do I safely get all of these items to employees across the country? How do I make sure getting people their monogramed polos doesn’t become a vector for COVID-19? I started thinking, ‘I don’t feel sick, but I also haven’t been tested. What if I am asymptomatic? How dangerous is contact? How transmissible is the virus from contact? How long does it live on a surface?’

Luckily for me, knowing the answers to these questions is what my company does! So I spoke to HRP’s Practice Leader for Environmental, Health, and Safety, Ms. Jackie Baxley. The procedure we devised made it clear that fulfilling orders would be simple and safe! We start from a place of knowledge.  We know that the primary route of exposure is through respiratory droplets.  We know that studies have shown that the virus can remain viable on different surfaces for varying amounts of time.  We know if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after touching a contaminated surface, you can infect yourself.  So our approach was twofold:  Recognize viability on surfaces and ensure that when I distribute these I’m not adding COVID-19 to the apparel order.

The apparel order enters the office having been individually packaged in plastic (2-3 day virus detectability) by the supplier and shipped to us in a fiberboard box (24 hour virus detectability).  Since the office has been closed, this order has sat untouched well past CDC’s 7 day period that indicates additional cleaning and disinfection is not needed.  So, after a period of time from working at the house, I finally get to go to the office! 

I enter the building, masked and temperature screen at the door, following HRP’s guidelines for working safely in our office. Before I filter through the orders, I wash my hands with soap and water and I start to sift through the box (still wearing my mask!). When I’m done delivering these orders to employee’s mailboxes or packaging to send to other offices, I wash my hands again. My following masking and hygiene protocols ensure my fellow HRPers will only receive their swag, and nothing more sinister. 

Simple! At least for me, but what about the logistical challenge across different businesses and industries, challenges faced by thousands of owners, managers, employees and individual consumers:

  • The nature of shipping and receiving (lots of movement, time, sitting in hot vehicles) will not provide a very hospitable environment for the virus
  • Knowing the primary route of exposure is through respiratory droplets from close contact, product receiving actually falls into a low risk activity category, assuming you are not in direct contact with delivery personnel.
  • Shipping product safely requires more focus on the shipping employee rather than surface contamination of the product being shipped. Employers need to ensure their shipping employees (all employees for that matter) are able to maintain physical distancing, wear mask, and practice proper hygiene. A good side effect of mask wearing and proper hygiene is that it further lowers the risk of COVID-19 potentially contaminating the product surface.

Planning for and dealing with these challenges is what HRP does. We can create and adapt a plan to meet the specific needs to your business and your industry.

Tom Simmons, Marketing Assistant at HRP Associates, Inc.
Jackie S. Baxley, PE, EHS Practice Leader at HRP Associates, Inc.