COVID-19 Reinforces Distributors’ Commitment to Protecting Employees

July 07, 2020

Maintaining the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain in this unprecedented time would not be possible without the incredible efforts of distribution industry employees, who are working around-the-clock to move critical medicines and healthcare supplies.

Supporting and protecting valued employees is a core mission for HDA distributor members. This crisis has forced the industry to be nimble and think creatively about how best to protect the health and wellness of employees while ensuring they have the flexibility and resources they need to work effectively.


Planning and Preparation

Maintaining a robust employee support system during a once-in-a-lifetime public health challenge begins with preparation. As news of the virus began to spread earlier this year, distributors sprang into action, proactively launching contingency plans to stay ahead of the curve. Many HDA members convened company-wide task forces and initiatives to coordinate their individual responses, ensure the continued operations of critical business functions and put procedures in place to keep employees safe.

As part of ongoing efforts to provide additional resources for members and augment their individual response efforts, HDA organized and distributed recommended protocols on maintaining a safe working environment during COVID-19, including key recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The protocols were recently updated as individuals and businesses adapt to the “new normal” of operating under a pandemic.

Additionally, each distributor member has their own plan in place for how operations will adjust if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. This may include shutting down a facility for 24 hours for a deep cleaning before reopening for business or activating contingency protocols that rely on nearby distribution centers to continue processing orders if one facility is closed.


Protocols for a Safe Work Environment

While HDA members quickly transitioned staff that could work remotely, sustaining pharmaceutical supply chain operations requires that many pharmaceutical distribution center staff remain on site to organize and ship products.

Following the outbreak, distributors instituted a variety of preventive measures in accordance with CDC guidelines and implemented new programs designed to protect and recognize employees’ contributions during this unprecedented time. Each HDA member company has individual procedures in place that reflect their unique workforce. Some examples of programs and policies include:
  • Mandating daily deep cleanings at all distribution centers and hiring additional cleaning staff to more frequently sterilize public surfaces to further minimize risk.
  • Changing guidelines to allow employees to avoid high-traffic areas, including encouraging employees to “punch in” using a time clock app on their phones and staggering lunch breaks.
  • Dividing staff into shifts and paying one shift to stay at home and remain on call in case someone on the main shift tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees and couriers.
  • Supporting employees through incentive pay, back-up dependent care programs and enhanced paid time off policies for those who need to quarantine or care for family members.
  • Providing lunches for employees to support nearby restaurants and minimize trips away from facilities during shifts.
  • Throughout this crisis, HDA distributor members have gone the extra mile to direct lifesaving medicines to the frontlines while meeting the daily healthcare needs of all Americans. This has only been possible by protecting the health and well-being of their people.

To learn more about the industry’s commitment to ensuring the health and wellness of distributor employees and their families, check out our new video:

For additional HDA materials and pandemic response resources, visit our website.