CLEVELAND — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused all kinds of problems for even “essential businesses,” including people who deliver and install major appliances like fridges and stoves.
“We’re just thrown out into the field and carry on like we do a normal day,” said one man who wished to remain anonymous.
He fears losing work but also fears his work. He delivers appliances for Home Depot in our area through a company called Forward Air.
“Our health and livelihood as well as the customers that we go to everyone’s at risk,” he said.
He’s worried about being exposed and he’s not alone.
“You’re taking a chance pretty much,” said another man who didn’t want us to use his name either. He also does 3rd-party delivery for Home Depot.
He told us many customers don’t care.
“You ask them, ‘Oh, are you guys feeling healthy?’ Oh, yeah, sure,’” he said. “And then you’re doing the delivery you hear somebody coughing in the room.”
This is at a time when Best Buy changed its deliveries now just dropping off at the front door.
“Everything that we do is infection prevention focused,” said Dr. Shanina Knighton, an infection prevention specialist from Case Western Reserve University. “This is the first time I would say that we actually realize that infection prevention guidelines are not thoroughly done in a manner to protect workers."
With that in mind, she said delivery drivers and customers should have a conversation.
“Plan a phone call ahead of time and work through how you plan the visit to go,” she said.
She suggested customers should clean and disinfect areas where the installation will happen, keep a distance from the installer, and wear a mask.
Dr. Knighton told us deliverers should be asking questions like where can I clean my hands? Anyone sick in the home? Will I be working in a space by myself or will there be people around me while I’m in that space?
Plus, she said installers should bring cleaning supplies, gloves, masks and more.
“It is the employers’ responsibility to make sure that their employees are educated on how to make resources, use resources that, too, can keep them safe,” said Dr. Knighton.
We contacted Home Depot and Forward Air. They said, in essence, they are doing everything they can to protect people. (See complete statements below.)
The anonymous contractors, who News 5 verified work with these companies and others, don’t agree and need customer's help. “But if (customers are) just going to upgrade because there’s a sale this week, I mean, what’s the point? You’re endangering lives,” said one.
“There’s thousands of people that lost their lives and this COVID-19 is no joke,” said the other.
Deliverers told us if they delay delivery or just drop items at front doors, they will lose money.
Home Depot Response: “Hi Jonathan—thanks for talking just now. As I mentioned, we’ve shared cleaning and sanitation best practices with our partners and have been assured that our delivery agents are providing any PPE they can. Further, if a customer isn’t comfortable with taking a delivery or a driver isn’t comfortable going into the home, we’ll happily reschedule.”
Forward Air Response: “As a company, we’ve been very aggressive with our safety measures and we have reinforced these measures with our independent delivery agents. If any of our independent service providers are uncomfortable during any point of a delivery, they are permitted to decline, and the delivery will be rescheduled.”