Fleets are playing a critical role in providing essential services during the Covid-19 global pandemic. CAF presents some best practices fleets can employ to help keep drivers safe from the virus.
The rapidly spreading coronovirus Covid-19 is officially a pandemic (an acknowledgement of its global spread), and has infected more than half a million people as of 27 March, 2020.
Specific best practices for fleet driver safety will include an increasingly safety-first approach to safe workplaces, intensive interior vehicle cleaning, and a clear policy on dealing with a positive-tested driver or employee.
To determine those best practices means having a basic understanding of the disease. The human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs, and is most commonly spread from an infected person through: 'respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze, close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, and/or touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands' (Source: The Government of Canada).
Recent directives about social distancing and good hygiene means taking extra precautions to keep employees safe, including:
- ensuring all employees are aware of the symptoms and risk of the virus, to help prevent person-to-person transmission.
- providing safety products to help with additional attention to cleaning – disinfecting door handles, computer keyboards, desks, telephones, etc.
- providing alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available.
Health Canada recommends frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces, with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water).
Interior vehicle cleaning
Human coronaviruses' survival on environmental surfaces is dependent on the surface type - according to Health Canada, preliminary information on COVID-19 suggests the virus may persist on surfaces for a few hours or several days. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that researchers testing the stability of the viruses (SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-Cov-1) on various surfaces found SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) lasted longest - up to two or three days - on plastic and stainless steel. On copper, viable virus lasted only four hours and no viable SARS-CoV-2 remained on cardboard after 24 hours.
An effective interior vehicle cleaning checklist can include:
- Using disposable latex gloves.
- Using disinfectant wipes on hard, often-used surfaces such as door handles, steering wheels, seatbelts, arm rests, gear shifts, turn-signal indicators and interactive instrument controls.
- Using disinfectant sprays to make sure all hard-to-reach areas are cleaned and disinfected.
- Disinfecting all keys.
An updated checklist for cleaning the interior of all vehicles will include using Canadian-approved vehicle disinfectants.
Canadian-approved vehicle disinfectants
Because coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, they are 'one of the easiest viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product when used according to the label directions', according to Health Canada.
While Health Canada has not approved any product to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19, it has listed more than 130 hard-surface disinfectant products that meet its requirements for emerging viral pathogens, so they can be used against SARS-CoV-2.
The list is regularly updated (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/disinfectants/covid-19/list.html), and currently includes four aerosols, 96 solutions and 25 sprays. To check if a disinfectant meets Health Canada's requirements for COVID-19, find the Drug Identification Number (DIN) on the disinfectant product label and check that number on the Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) list.
Fleets need to have a clear policy on what to do if a driver/employee is tested positive for Covid-19 after driving a company vehicle. In addition to vehicle disinfection/quarantine, there should be an extension to existing sick/attendance policies, so employees are clear on what they are entitled to, and to help them overcome confusion or fear.
Vehicle policy details:
- Identify the person (supervisor/manager) in charge of updating and enforcing the policy.
- Throughly disinfect the vehicle used by the driver/employee.
- Consider engaging a professional disinfectant company to do the cleaning.
- If possible, consider putting the vehicle in a quarantined area for up to three days.
People policy details:
- Make sure all employees are aware of the extra safe-working measures in place, including the sanitizers etc. available to them.
- Ensure desks, telephones and keyboards are wiped with disinfectant.
- The World Health Organization suggests people stay away from work if they have only mild symptoms.
- Provide updated information on what financial support employees are entitled to.
- If a person becomes ill at the workplace, isolate them and contact the local health authority.
- Ensure there is no stigma and discrimination.
The situation is changing daily, so any policies should be amended in line with the most recent government/Health&Safety advisories.