Amazon takes extra precautions across its vast enterprise for COVID-19

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Amazon takes extra precautions across its vast enterprise for COVID-19

By Dan Berthiaume - 03/25/2020

Amazon is adjusting a wide variety of fulfillment, delivery, and in-store practices to ensure it can continue operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online giant has implemented a series of preventative health measures to increase the frequency and intensity of cleaning at its retail stores, fulfillment centers and other sites around the globe.

The measures, undertaken with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), include regular sanitization of door handles, handrails, touchscreens, scanners and other frequently touched areas.

"We've changed our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third-party seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering essential items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies," Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said in a recent email to employees. "We're providing a vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable. People are depending on us."

Following is a summary of the additional steps Amazon is taking at fulfillment centers, in its delivery network, and at Whole Foods and Amazon Go Grocery stores.

Whole Foods Market and Amazon Go Grocery stores

Whole Foods Market stores and Amazon Go Grocery store will remain open with enhanced cleanliness and sanitation protocols in place across all stores and facilities. The retailer has established social distancing guidelines in stores and is making hand sanitizer available for shoppers and associates, including for shopping carts and at checkout. Amazon has also suspended all self-serve food offerings in its stores, and indoor and outdoor seating is unavailable until further notice.

Whole Foods Market store hours are being temporarily adjusted to allow customers age 60 and over in the U.S. and Canada, and age 70 and over in the U.K., to shop beginning one hour before the store opens to the general public, under the store's new adjusted hours. Whole Foods stores are closing up to two hours early to give more time to restock shelves, sanitize stores, and rest employees in preparation for the next day.

All part and full-time hourly associates at Whole Foods Market stores and facilities will receive double their regular hourly base rate of pay for every overtime hour worked in a workweek from March 16, 2020 through May 3, 2020. Whole Foods employees placed into quarantine or diagnosed with COVID-19 will receive up to an additional two weeks of paid time off.

Employees who are unable or unwilling to work a scheduled shift have unlimited call-outs during this time. Amazon is suspending its current Whole Foods return policy and all sales are final unless there was a quality problem with the product at the time of purchase.

Fulfillment centers

Amazon is requiring employees and delivery service contractors to clean and disinfect their work stations at fulfillment centers. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, Amazon evaluates factors including where they were in the building, for how long, how much time has passed since they were onsite, and who they interacted with, in determining whether the site needs to close. Amazon will also ask anyone at the site who was in close contact with the diagnosed individual to stay home with pay for 14-days in self-quarantine.

Amazon has also eliminated stand-up meetings during shifts. Instead, business-essential information is shared via white boards near main areas and through conversations with managers or HR team members. Shift start times and break times have been staggered, tables in the break rooms on site have been spread out, and exit screening has been suspended to ensure ease of movement near main entrances.

In addition, Amazon is shifting trainings to avoid employees gathering in one spot, adjusting its hiring process to encourage social distancing, and pausing hosting public guests in fulfillment centers. Amazon has also enabled a temporary cell phone process for those who need to be in contact with their families or childcare providers.

Other employee requirements include that everyone wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations are accessible throughout Amazon’s buildings. In addition to break times, employees can log out of their system to wash their hands whenever they choose, which has no impact on their performance.

All hourly Amazon associates within the company’s operations and delivery network in the U.S. will receive double their regular hourly base rate of pay for every overtime hour worked in a workweek from March 15, 2020 through May 9, 2020.

Delivery network

At the start and end of routes, delivery associates and Flex delivery contractors must use disinfectant wipes to clean all frequently touched surfaces in their vehicles and other work equipment, including things like keys, steering wheel, buttons, and delivery devices. Amazon has also instructed them to refrain from shaking hands or having any other physical contact with customers, and maintain a minimum one-meter distance from customers at all times.

Furthermore, Amazon has asked that delivery associates and Flex delivery contractors wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. They should use a tissue to cover a cough or sneeze, throw the tissue in the trash, then wash their hands. Work uniforms (including work gloves) must be washed daily. Amazon is also urging all delivery service contractors and drivers to stay home if they feel sick or have a fever. They must be fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication before returning to work.