Should working in retail warehouses be safer than stores?
Net-a-Porter and Next last week suspended online operations as the accelerated spread of the coronavirus places greater safety risks on its delivery and warehouse workers.
Net-a-Porter, the luxury e-retailer, said in an email to customers Friday, “We want to do everything we can to keep our colleagues, community and customers safe.”
Next, the U.K. fashion chain, said in a statement last Thursday, “Next has listened very carefully to its colleagues working in Warehousing and Distribution Operations to fulfil Online orders. It is clear that many increasingly feel they should be at home in the current climate.”
Among other retailers, Patagonia closed its stores and online operations on March 13. Rose Marcario, Patagonia’s CEO, said in a statement, “We are working to find solutions to protect the safety of our warehouse team, and we hope to have an update about online orders in the coming weeks.”
The closures come as most retailers aggressively push online orders to make up for temporarily shuttered locations.
Victoria’s Secret reopened its online website last Thursday that it had suspended on March 19. The lingerie giant’s site states, “We have been working around the clock to implement safeguards in our distribution centers and are pleased to say we feel confident in the steps we’ve taken.”
The retailer’s warehouse workers are now required to have their temperature taken before shifts and sit six feet apart at workstations, according to Business Insider. Management has added hand sanitizer stations and an onsite pharmacy to give workers easy access to “healthcare and medicines quickly and easily.”
Amazon.com has faced perhaps the harshest criticism over workplace safety during the pandemic. Reuters reported on Saturday that workers in at least 17 of the company’s 110 North American facilities had tested positive for COVID-19.
Steps Amazon is taking to enhance safety include increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning as well as staggering shifts and break times to prevent crowding. Social media, however, is full of stories of Amazon workers sorting and packing closely together to keep up with the workload as online orders surge and supplies of hand sanitizer and wipes run low in warehouses.
- Temporary Closure of NEXT Online, Warehousing and Distribution – Next
- Next Employees Said The Company Is “Putting Lives At Risk” As Social Distancing Rules Aren’t Being Followed At Warehouses – Buzzfeed
- Net-a-Porter and Next are suspending online shopping to keep workers safe – CNN
- Victoria’s Secret
- Victoria’s Secret reopens its online store but says that workers’ shifts in warehouses will be staggered and that they are now required to sit 6 feet apart – Business Insider
- How Amazon prioritizes health and safety while fulfilling customer orders – Amazon.com
- A message from our CEO and founder – Amazon.com
- Amazon Workers Are Scared, Unprotected As Coronavirus Sweeps Through Warehouses – Huffington Post
- ‘They’re putting us all at risk’: What it’s like working in Amazon’s warehouses during the coronavirus outbreak – CNBC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the biggest hurdles to keeping distribution workers protected from the novel coronavirus? What solutions do you see?