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This document is intended to provide guidance to help recyclers operate safely and minimize the potential for exposure to COVID-19.  It has been developed based on public information provided by CDC, OSHA and other expert sources.  However, as there is still a lot that is not known about COVID-19, ISRI encourages you to make sure to check both ISRI’s COVID-19 resource page on its website and the CDC website often for changes and updates.  ISRI will also continue to send updated information directly to all members by email.


And, of course, please reach out to any of ISRI’s Safety Staff with questions about any of the items in this document, or any other questions you might have regarding safety and the recycling industry:

Tony Smith, VP of Safety: TSmith@isri.org or 260/409-9561

Commodor Hall, Senior Director of Safety: CHall@isri.org or 202/662-8519

Ryan Nolte, Director of Safety Outreach: RNolte@isri.org or 765/637-1501 

Darrell Kendall, Execuive Director of RIOSTMDKendall@isri.org or 202/809-6833

Specific Guidance for Truck Operations

In the interest of combating the threat of COVID-19, hand washing, social distancing, and regularly wiping down the inside of the vehicle is a good start for a driver. Yet, many additional risks and problems will still need to be addressed.

  • Avoid Contact/Practice Social Distancing: 

    When at a shipper, receiver, restaurant, or service facility, drivers need to know to maintain a safe distance from other people (6 feet or more). They should also avoid touching anything they are not required to touch. When leaving a facility, drivers should wash their hands (20-seconds with warm soapy water) before getting in the vehicle.

    Germs are spread through contact with droplets, either directly or droplets that were left on a surface, so drivers, in general, should always wash their hands immediately before getting in their vehicles. This should help drivers avoid contaminating the surfaces in the cab that they routinely touch. It does drivers no good to be disciplined about washing their hands if they don’t avoid contaminating the inside of the vehicle.

  • Handling Shipping Documents and Other Paperwork: 

    When handling shipping documents and other paperwork, drivers should “handle with care,” and immediately wash their hands. If your drivers use an electronic delivery device, it should be disinfected after a customer has handled it, and the driver should immediately wash his or her hands. Another possibility is having the driver sign the electronic device on the customer’s behalf if that is possible in your operating environment.

  • Restaurants and Food:

    Drivers need to give more thought than usual to a basic need: food. With restaurants all over the country closing, drivers are finding it difficult to find a meal. Many of the restaurants used by drivers are now carry-out only, but drivers need to know which restaurants are still providing food. Providing a tool for drivers to share information on where food is available might be something to consider. Also, drivers should try to get food only at reputable restaurants. One advantage of large chain restaurants (fast food) is that they typically have well-established sanitizing policies. Additionally, to avoid parking issues a driver may want to consider a large chain restaurant at a truck stop.  

  • Obtaining a DOT Physical/Renewing a commercial driver’s license (CDL):

    While not a day-to-day concern, obtaining a DOT medical exam or renewing a CDL may become an issue. As the medical industry and government agencies become stressed, it will become harder to get an appointment for a physical or to renew a CDL. Because of this, drivers and carriers need to think ahead, schedule appointments well in advance, and be prepared for delays and reschedules.

  • Hours-of-Service and Dealing with Fatigue:

    There is a temporary exemption related to COVID-19 that allows drivers to ignore the limits and logging requirements. However, this exemption is narrowly focused, as it only applies to drivers hauling in direct support of an emergency related to the outbreak. This includes hauling necessary supplies, restocking empty grocery stores, and hauling supplies for temporary housing set up due to the virus.

    Even if not operating under the emergency declaration, drivers can be under pressure to work as many hours as possible. However, carriers must keep the risk of driver fatigue as a top priority. In addition to being less safe on the road, a person suffering from fatigue will generally be more susceptible to infection. If a driver becomes fatigued, allow the driver to rest, no matter what the operational circumstance.

  • Reassigning Equipment:
    Finally, one consideration is moving drivers from vehicle to vehicle. If one driver is infected and has been in four different vehicles, you now have four vehicles that need to be disinfected and at least four other drivers that have been exposed. Consideration should be given to going to an assigned vehicle model and developing in-house procedures for disinfecting vehicles after every shift when drivers are assigned a different vehicle.

COVID-19 Safety Posters

Slow the spread! ISRI developed these COVID-19 safety and readiness tips into a displayable format for members to use in break rooms, offices, and shops. Download and send to your local print shop.



Exposure Prevention Preparedness and Response Plan

This template helps recyclers create a COVID-19 Exposure Prevention Preparedness and Response Plan that will fit the needs of their business. It has been developed based on public information.  Each company should have a representative who is designated to monitor CDC and OSHA guidelines for any updates or changes that may need to go in to their version of this plan.

Safety Tips Videos



Mental Health

During this time, the mental wellbeing employees is particularly important.  It is a very stressful time for everyone. 

The CDC has a very good website with resources to help people at home and at work manage stress related to COVID-19 that can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), it is important to remind employees as to its availability and how to access it.  EAPs are

If you do not have an EAP, there are many good resources for reducing anxiety and helping people reduce stress during this time, including:

And remember, taking care of your own emotional health during an emergency, such as this one, will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself, your employees, and your family!!

Have Questions?