This article is based on a portion of a webinar given by Michael “Tree” Kiester, CSP, the Director of Environment, Health and Safety at Booster Fuels. Booster is a contactless gas and diesel delivery service based in San Mateo, California, that has reinvented how fleets stay fueled in America.
Because of COVID-19, it’s been a rough go for business in America and around the world. As we get through the thick of the pandemic, we’re seeing that businesses have had to fundamentally change how they conduct business on a daily basis because of how this disease spreads. Today, we’ll explore the many ways you can adapt your business to keep your people safe and your business efficient.
FIRST, WE EDUCATE
Let’s begin with the resources at your disposal for information, advice and changing or new legal requirements of business owners. Local and county health authorities, state health organizations, the CDC and Telemedicine can all assist in providing thorough information that you can pass on to your employees.
That said, your employees can’t enact sound safety practices if they don’t know what they are. That’s why it’s imperative for you to enact COVID-specific training to educate your workforce on the best ways to keep your business moving while staying both safe and healthy. Your employees should be able to identify, prevent and combat its spread.
Every employee should know the COVID symptoms from the CDC.
Here is the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker to assess if you’ve possibly been exposed to the virus
Every employee should know when to come into work, when not to come into work and where to get tested.
It’s imperative to partner with your HR team to ensure that employees get all of the help they can get.
Where Bacteria Gather: Helping Limit The Risks
By understanding where the virus lives, you can help minimize risk of exposure by having employees avoid affected areas or take extra precautions. We measure the ability for bacteria to colonize by density in a square inch and different surfaces have different concentrations. Here, we’ll look at a few.
As you can see, The bottom of a purse contains 9.7 Colony Forming Units (CFU) per square inch. Money is 5.2. Even a household toilet, which has 172, pales in comparison to the gas pump, which is right over 2 million CFU per square inch. The actual buttons on the pumper clock in at a whopping 2.6M. Take that in for a second. A gas pump is more than 11,000 times as dirty as a toilet lid! Although bacteria isn’t a virus, this helps us know which surface particles will likely be present.
THEN WE TAKE ACTION
It’s more important than ever for fleet operators to take precautions to safeguard their employees on the job. Following are precautions that we’ve enacted at Booster, but that you can use for your employees as well.
Social Distancing and Working From Home
The first thing we want to do is get ourselves and our employees away from this hazard. Social distancing of six feet or more has proven effective at flattening the curve nationwide.
A third of the population is working from home, but there are many who own or work for businesses where that’s simply impossible.
Personal Protective Equipment: The last line of defense
If you have people who operate within six feet of each other, it's very important that you use PPE. You can think of it as a way of saying, “Hey, this hazard is so ubiquitous that I can't protect you from it without putting something between you and it.” During COVID-19, this includes the use of a face mask and a face shield whenever our personnel are operating within six feet of each other.
A specific scenario that calls for this is with new drivers. During onboarding, our drivers must do a test drive in the vehicle, so two people are required to be in the cab together. In this scenario, we put them into face masks and shields and require sanitizing the vehicles before and after they use them.
If your guys have to drive a truck, they're going to be exposed to that truck. We can take steps to be proactive about keeping their direct environments clean, but if they go to a restaurant for lunch, to a gas station or a distribution center to buy equipment for the job, the possibility for infection is multiplied.
The concentration of bacteria we mentioned on the gas pump handle alone requires positive action. One of the most basic ways to curb the spread of the coronavirus is high-touch sanitization. Surfaces (such as refrigerator door handles, counters, bathrooms, door knobs, the key box if that's where you store the keys for your vehicles) need to be cleaned even more often than they usually are.
We’ve given our drivers some stake in what they're doing by having them document pre-trip and post-trip inspections that include sanitizing surfaces. This also adds redundancy between shifts for added precautions.
Bleach is a very common sanitizing agent. But these days, it's in short supply. Also, bleach has a tendency to have a pretty high reactive rate and people don't like the smell or the incidence of skin irritation, either. So the EPA has published a list of chemicals that are approved to sanitize for COVID 19. A popular option with widespread availability is quaternary ammonium.
If you’d like it done professionally, there are companies that offer that service, too. Companies such as Stericycle and Clean Harbors have the equipment and training to routinely sanitize your vehicle.
In addition to sanitizing, another great way to ensure your employees have access to the facilities they need to be successful while also minimizing their exposure is by using staggered starts. Instead of all personnel meeting in the yard for a pre-job planning meeting and then grabbing the keys and their equipment and heading out, we’ve formalized a staggered process. An employee arrives at seven o'clock, they have 10 minutes to get what they need and move out. The next employee comes in at 7:15 and so on. It takes some planning, but the safety it provides is of utmost importance.
Clustering Vehicle Users
In a perfect world, there would be one driver per truck to ensure minimized exposure. If you can't do that, clustering is a good way to keep your people safe. Simply ensure that set numbers of people are assigned to set vehicles for the day shift and night shift. Those don't migrate to other vehicles. This practice limits the population of people exposed to each other. Combining this with increased sanitization will certainly curb the spread of COVID-19.
A surefire way to limit the spread of COVID? Contactless Gas Delivery.
Finally, in addition to all of these actions that help mitigate risk, fleet operators can consider cutting out one of the dirtiest places their drivers may encounter altogether: the gas station.
A customer recently shared an email with us: their HR department had sent out a national, company-wide memo mandating that employees avoid convenience stores while on the job and even asked them to avoid gas stations to fuel their own vehicles.
The solution? Contactless gas delivery. They immediately reached out to Booster to begin delivering fuel so they could avoid the dirty pumps altogether.
GREAT. SO WHAT’S NEXT?
It’s an uncertain world out there right now, particularly for fleet operators. As a pioneer and leader in our field, we’ve so far guided our clients, our company and its crew safely through the pandemic by offering our contactless fuel delivery service, educating them and taking specific actions to curb its spread.
If you’re interested in doing the same for your drivers, we’ve included both a link to our webinar titled “Safety in the time of COVID-19” and a downloadable PDF that you can use as a quick reference on the best ways to keep your employees safe and to keep your business moving forward.