Cold Chains are likely to be the most directly impacted, emotionally affected businesses in industry – after all, we move food. Uninformed panic has already reached such proportions that prices of poultry and products have dropped to less than half of their cost, with no takers.
Lots of our deliveries are to chain restaurants like burger and pizza places, that in some cities have been shut down completely to prevent people-to-people contact.
The two platforms for so-called ‘impeccable, never wrong‘ information, WhatsApp and Facebook, are spreading a whole lot of not-so-factual information on this new and deadly disease, the COVID – 19.
It’s time we took a reality check and, because we perform an important job in the industry, set some simple protocols for ourselves that are different and apart from the regular ones that are doing the rounds – unique issues that need to be addressed in our industry.
The SARS – CoV2 as the virus is named, is responsible for the disease called COVID-19. The WHO is not keen on using the name of the virus because South Asian countries may (incorrectly) link this to the SARS epidemic and cause more panic. There is also an unverified conclusion that the virus thrives in lower temperatures – this is an unknown factor at this time.
The big issue is that unlike other infectious diseases, symptoms appear later; persons who are infected show almost no symptoms in the early, infectious stage, but they can spread it around.
The virus is transmitted to other humans in water droplets from coughs and sneezes, this being the most risky behaviour, with other poorer possibility transmissions happening via contact with infected surfaces, essentially by peoples hands touching surfaces and then their face / eyes / nose etc.
In the Cold Chain business, this problem is exacerbated by our people and vehicles travelling from one geography to another, with our packages and material being handled by even more people at both ends.
As Cold Chain professionals, we have two primary goals here – keep our people safe and prevent the transmission of the virus to others. Both involve movement restrictions, training, more training and yet more training.Tweet
As Cold Chain professionals, we have two primary goals here – keep our people safe and prevent the transmission of the virus to others. Both involve movement restrictions, training, more training and yet more training.
We need to focus on educating our drivers and loader teams with basic hygiene:–
1. Do NOT report for work if someone has a cough or cold (very basic and MUST be enforced)
2. Wash hands with soap and water for minimum 20 seconds EACH time they access a vehicle
3. Do NOT dry hands with handkerchiefs and the like – they are reused often during the day and get contaminated
4. Wash faces regularly with soap and water and DONT touch your face (nose, eyes, mouth) at any other time
5. Avoid unnecessary contact between hands and any surfaces, like walls, doors etc
6. Only one person at a time should enter a reefer (droplets do not easily atomise in cold temperatures) and minimal touch, with protective gloves
7. Use gloves to handle material and avoid touching the outside of the gloves with your bare hands / clothes / body
8.Have a complete soap and water shower when you are done for the day and do NOT wear unwashed outer garments again (companies need to consider providing these extra facilities for arriving drivers at the warehouses)
9. Spray food grade surface disinfectant on the inside of the reefer on all visible surfaces AND in the drivers cab, their touch surfaces like steering wheels, dashboard panels etc each time it is opened
10. Damp and wet areas need to be wiped dry – do not use compressed air to blow away or dry moisture
11. Maintenance crews must spray surface disinfectant after work and REPLACE the filters on the AHUs. Do not use compressed air to blow them clean.
12. Keep auditable records on your Fleet Management System, of personnel engaged vs. vehicle ids and products for reverse traceability, in case of an infection.
13. Keep your fleet properly serviced and maintained – unscheduled downtime results in unprotected work time. Depend on your fleet management system and ensure data is updated at all times – don’t be caught by a breakdown.
Above all, don’t panic, remember COVID-19 is another flu – albeit a dangerous one. Don’t depend on social media to keep you informed, do your own homework and enable yourself. Go to www.cdc.org
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About the Author– Vikram S. Puri is an inventor, entrepreneur and rotarian with multiple technology patents and 34+ years of supply chain experience. He can be reached via http://in.linkedin.com/in/vikramspuri/