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COVID-19 Preparedness Guide

How to Safely Pack, Ship, and Receive Packages During a Pandemic

Things always need to be moved, whether it’s a house full of belongings, a piece of artwork, or a box of groceries.

During a global pandemic like the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, consumers will increasingly rely on online shopping and contactless services to access goods and services instead of visiting stores and conducting business in person, including moving and shipping packages and cargo. Businesses will depend on online transactions as well, with many enterprises working to improve their ability to operate remotely with minimal face-to-face contact or ship their products to customers around the country.

No matter what you’re moving, there are some precautions you can take both as a shipper and as a receiver to ensure everyone’s safety throughout the shipping process. This guide will provide some simple advice for how to safely pack items for shipping, shipping large items, how to unpack deliveries, and how to avoid delays.

What you need to know before you ship something

Studies have shown that the novel coronavirus can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard. However, according to the CDC and WHO, the risk of contracting novel coronavirus by touching the surface of a recently delivered box is low—the riskiest part of shipping and receiving a package is interacting with delivery personnel or employees at shipping retail depots.

Whether you are a business shipping packages to customers or a private citizen sending furniture and household goods or necessary supplies to loved ones across the country, there are a few things you should know before you box up your items:

  • Because of air cargo capacity limitations, some shippers, such as FedEx, are applying temporary surcharges on certain packages, including express international shipments.
  • Some parcel shippers have suspended signature requirements for some shipments.
  • Money-back guarantees in the event of delayed shipments may also have been suspended.

Do your research before you visit a shipping facility or schedule a porch pick-up to ensure you aren’t surprised by last minute fees or other unexpected limitations.

To avoid going into a store to arrange shipment altogether, some parcel shippers have opened parcel drop-off locations at special drop boxes across the country. You can find a drop box location online, or even schedule a pickup at your home, business, or other location to minimize contact.

How to safely pack boxes and parcels for shipping

As a shipper, the risk of spreading an illness is comparatively low, especially if your shipment will be travelling long distances over several days or longer. Nonetheless, there are some precautions you can take to minimize the risk even further to make sure your customers feel comfortable (don't forget to let them know what you are doing!):

  • Wear gloves while packing your items. Always wear fresh gloves (don’t re-use them), and dispose of them properly after you’re finished packing.
  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before packing your items.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth while packing. A mask might help prevent you from touching your face, but only if it is properly fit to your face. An improperly fit mask may cause you to touch your face more often to adjust it. Take time to follow the correct steps for putting on a mask as outlined by medical professionals. 
  • Disinfect items as much as possible before you place them inside their shipping box or container. This is ideal for smaller items as well as larger items like wood, glass, metal, or plastic furniture, but may be difficult to arrange for antiques, artwork, or upholstered items.
  • Request a contact-free shipment by arranging contactless pickup and selecting “no signature required” options whenever it makes sense. This allows you, the driver, and the recipient to maintain physical distancing guidelines throughout the shipping process.

TSI TIP: If you are sending large or valuable items, you may still wish to require a signature on delivery

Safely shipping large items

If you’re shipping large items such as furniture or artwork, you may not be able to disinfect your cargo before packing it, and you may not have the option of selecting a contactless pickup or delivery.

Instead, wash your hands thoroughly and be sure not to touch your face while you’re packing your cargo. Contact your shipping provider to find out what safety precautions they’ve implemented and whether their pickup and delivery procedures have changed, and do your best to maintain physical distancing guidelines at pickup and delivery.

How to receive a delivery and unpack it safely

The greatest risk you face when receiving a package is having contact with the delivery person—the risk of contracting novel coronavirus from your package is low.

You can keep yourself safe by following these tips when unpacking your delivery:

  • If you can, let cardboard packages sit for 24 hours before opening them.
  • Consider unpacking deliveries outside. Remove your goods from the outer packaging outdoors and place the shipping box directly into the recycling bin, then wipe the contents down with disinfectant before bringing them inside. Wash your hands immediately.
  • If you open your packages indoors, select a designated unpacking space for all of your deliveries. A spot that can be easily disinfected is ideal, such as a table or counter.
  • After opening your package, sanitize any surfaces touched by the outer packaging once it’s been safely disposed of.
  • Unpack your items and disinfect them if possible. Wash your hands thoroughly once everything has been unboxed and you’ve disposed of any packaging material.

How to avoid shipping delays

Many shippers are experiencing delays due to high demand and reduced capacity, especially post and parcel shippers and international shipments impacted by local conditions and travel restrictions.

The best thing you can do is to expect delays and give your package or shipment lots of time to arrive. Send it as soon as you can, and provide liberal delivery estimates if you are shipping items to buyers across the country.

Throughout the shipping process, communicate openly with your recipient. If they are not able to take delivery—if their business is closed, for example—you may be able to coordinate a delivery to another location:

  • Select a “hold at location” delivery so that the package will be held at an open retail location till your recipient is able to pick it up.
  • Have the shipment held at a freight service center.
  • Re-route your shipment. Some providers can stop a shipment in transit, re-rate it based on miles travelled, and return it to you or send it to another location with a fresh tracking number.

If your recipient is unable to receive the package, it can also be returned to the original sender, with any additional charges paid by the original shipper or other appropriate payor.

Conclusion

With businesses across the country pivoting to contactless operations, consumers and business owners are increasingly relying on freight and parcel shipping services to access the goods and services they need.

According to the CDC and WHO, the risk of contracting novel coronavirus by touching the surface of a recently delivered box is low. However, there are a number of precautions you can take as a shipper to ensure everyone’s safety throughout the shipping process, including:

  • Wearing gloves while packing your items.
  • Washing your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before packing your items.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth while packing.
  • Disinfecting items as much as possible before you place them inside their shipping box or container.
  • Requesting a contact-free pickup and delivery by arranging contactless pickup and selecting “no signature required” options whenever it makes sense.