While many fleet owners have pivoted their processes to keep drivers socially distanced and healthy, manufacturers and warehouse managers have been busy tracking the health not only of their workers, but of their equipment.
The health of equipment, whether forklift or hand truck, is in the hands of the operator, and throughout any given day, the equipment is a central connection point between workers, cargo and downstream customers. So it’s essential to keep it sanitized.
For forklifts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all operators to log their usage, whether using telematics or paper logs. Many warehouse managers are able to repurpose existing technology to keep automated logs not only about who’s operating the forklift, but how often the forklift is being sanitized.
“On our forklifts, we have computers and keyboards, as well as the normal controls, so along with our regular cleaning process, we are disinfecting and sanitizing every four hours,” said Chris Hoisington, distribution and materials manager at a Kraft Heinz facility in Champaign, Illinois. “We’re using the Powerfleet technology to prompt the question, so we have a traditional list of standard safety questions about fork truck maintenance and its readiness for use, so we just added a question that says, ‘Have you sanitized your fork truck today?’ You have to successfully answer that question, or your fork truck will not operate.”
Each morning at 6:00 a.m. Hoisington receives an emailed report detailing everyone who touched the forklift on the previous day. In this way, automation prevents unnecessary meetings, as well as the risky handling of paper. Even when meetings must occur, Hoisington says they’ve thinned out the cafeteria chairs to ensure the six-foot rule between employees.
“We hope that we never have this occur, but if we were to have a positive COVID-19 case, I can go back and look at that fork truck or look at that person and see every fork truck he or she touched,” said Hoisington.
Back in March, PowerFleet sent an email to its existing users, like Hoisington at Kraft Heinz, giving advice on how to repurpose their telematics platforms to make incremental safety improvements for this new COVID-19 climate.
“You can disinfect that equipment and quarantine it through these logs,” said Mark Stanton, general manager at PowerFleet. “You can also ‘message’ through the telematics solutions and set up communications either on a recurring or specific message basis. This way, you don’t have to bring operators into a room to roll out new processes or policies. If you have 40 people working in a warehouse and there are 40 forklifts, the last thing you want to be doing, if you’re trying to maintain social distance, is to bring everybody into the break room to have a conversation about a new process.”
While no one wants an employee to test positive for COVID-19, employers must be prepared if it should happen. PowerFleet’s recommendations to its customers shows the adaptability of technology to complete a variety of risk-mitigating tasks, ranging from the digitization of records to logging the chain of vehicle custody, using keyless ignition, direct messaging or utilizing safety checklists.
If OSHA were to audit a facility using the digitized logs, all the records would already be accurate, because employees have to log in with a radio frequency identification (RFID) badge. Besides mitigating risk and protecting the health of employees, the benefits of these small changes to warehouse work processes transcend the warehouse walls.
“Our employees really appreciate the fact that we take their health and safety so seriously, ,” said Hoisington. “It helps give peace of mind when you consider the emotional stress of this situation.”