Research Hub > Securing Worker Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

January 05, 2021

Article
3 min

Securing Worker Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Safety is top of mind in CDW’s efforts to protect its distribution center staff while continuing to serve its customers.

Alexander Slagg

distribution-center
The COVID-19 pandemic has made sure that the year 2020 will go into the history books for a number of reasons. For one, the way people work has changed. But while some of us are fortunate enough to have the option to work from home, this has not been the case for everyone, especially for those who have been designated as essential workers. These individuals continue to show up for work during periods of local community restrictions or shelter-in-place orders.

Learn how CDW protected workers and adjusted its business to COVID-19 while maintaining its service-focused model.

Whether working remotely or on-site, safety is a big concern for all of us right now. According to Price Waterhouse Cooper’s November 2020 Workforce Pulse Survey of 1,000 American workers (both remote and essential), 48 percent say they feel strongly or somewhat agree that they are forced to sacrifice personal safety to remain employed. Many employees are concerned about their safety — as they should be. I’m thankful that my employer, CDW, has taken coworkers’ concerns about safety very seriously.

Social Distancing Efforts

CDW needed to address worker safety back in early March when it issued a company-wide work-from-home order. Some coworkers were able to work remotely, but not those in CDW’s distribution centers. The company moved quickly to maintain the safety of those coworkers while also keeping up with the daily flow of IT products that CDW’s customers desperately needed.

Within the distribution centers themselves, one of the first social distancing efforts was to shrink several different work shifts down to two, a red team and a blue team. This greatly reduced the opportunities for random, uncontrolled coworker interactions. Along with the work shift changes, CDW reorganized the entire operational flow of the distribution facility to enhance social distancing among coworkers within the facilities.

Innovative Safety Measures

Temperature checks were implemented at each distribution center’s entrance. Initially, this was done by nursing staff stationed at each entrance, which created long bottlenecks of coworkers entering the facilities at the same time to start their shift. Additional temporary entrances were added to reduce these bottlenecks. Later, in July, CDW became one of the first companies in the United States to use thermal imaging cameras to scan and record the body temperatures of coworkers entering its facilities.

CDW continues to seek out innovative solutions to maintain coworker safety. One pilot being tested is the use of wearable proximity sensors. These are badges worn by coworkers that help them maintain social distancing on the distribution center floor. They buzz whenever a worker gets within 6 feet of someone else with a badge. The RFID technology also tracks these encounters and management is provided access to reporting, which can assist with contact tracing and determining who had contact with who in the facility.

Communication and Deep Cleaning

Effective communication was imperative to keeping coworkers safe. Safety posters and digital signage sharing messages about social distancing were placed throughout each distribution center. In the lunchrooms, the number of chairs was limited to one per table. Coworkers were no longer allowed to bring in meals from outside to help reduce interactions with shared microwaves, refrigerators and vending machines. Instead, CDW started providing catered meals for all distribution center coworkers.

With coworkers onsite working at the facilities more than 18 hours a day, cleaning and disinfecting the distribution centers took some organizing. In order to balance operations with safety, the facilities shut down to allow for two cleanings throughout the day when a cleaning crew comes through and does a deep cleanse of all exposed surfaces. The first cleaning occurs before the first shift’s 4 a.m. start, and the second cleaning takes place before the second shift’s 2 p.m. start.

Coworker Safety, Customer Service

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of worker safety for many organizations, including CDW. Our coworkers play an essential role in serving our customers. By taking care of them, CDW is also taking care of its customers, and our business has the opportunity to thrive even amid the most trying circumstances. As the year 2020 closes out and a new year begins, I’m thankful for all of my fellow coworkers in our distribution centers, and for CDW’s efforts to keep us all safe. Keep on serving!