Amazon tightens driver delivery rules amid coronavirus outbreak
Use your phone to knock on doors. Don’t sneeze on the packages. Ask customers to set their identification on the ground and step away before you check it.
Amazon provided its contract delivery drivers Wednesday evening with its most detailed guidance yet for collecting and distributing packages while maintaining good hygiene and social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many of the recommendations hew closely to those made by public health officials for weeks.
Drivers in the Amazon Flex program had previously reported crowded, sometimes chaotic conditions at overburdened pickup locations, where they load their vehicles with dozens of packages for delivery to customers. They called out a lack of hand sanitizer or easy access to restrooms for washing hands and Amazon’s limited communication on how they should go about their work, which has become essential amid a global pandemic.
Meanwhile, Amazon had not increased the base rate it pays Flex drivers for delivery blocks, and an influx of new drivers has largely eliminated surge rates — financial incentives offered to attract more workers to handle increases in demand.
“They are flooded with so many new drivers locally that the block rate never surges,” a Seattle-area driver said Tuesday. Despite that, Amazon has had to tell customers that no delivery windows were available for some of its services.
Working Washington, already in the midst of a campaign to improve conditions for gig economy workers, on Wednesday called for companies to provide hazard pay of an additional $5 per delivery, as well as 14 days of unrestricted paid leave. Amazon has pledged a $25 million fund to help drivers and other contractors, providing grants equal to two weeks of pay for those diagnosed with COVID-19 — the illness caused by the coronavirus — or put in quarantine.
In a Wednesday evening email to Flex drivers that was reviewed by the Seattle Times, Amazon said they must maintain a distance of six feet from others when picking up packages, which the company said will be “strictly enforced.” Amazon has told its warehouse employees — some of whom have ongoing concerns about social distancing and hygiene — they must stay at least three feet apart.
Amazon told drivers that every delivery site and pickup location is equipped with ways to clean their hands, and Amazon or Whole Foods employees were instructed to assist anyone who couldn’t find the restroom or adequate sanitizing supplies, which remain hard to come by.
“We are working hard to ensure that hand sanitizer and wipes are available for your use at delivery sites and to keep your hands clean when you’re on the road,” the company told the Flex drivers, whose numbers have swelled in recent weeks with demand for delivery from homebound people. “We’ve placed orders for sanitizer and other cleaning supplies and, as soon as we receive these supplies, our first priority will be getting them in your hands.”
Specific instructions varied for pickups at Amazon’s delivery stations for groceries and other merchandise. In general, drivers are told to wait in their cars rather than crowding into staging areas. Amazon said they would be notified when their orders were ready to load.
“Please keep your window closed throughout this process,” the instructions said.
When making deliveries, drivers were told to wipe down frequently touched services, including handheld devices, steering wheels, keys and vehicle and door handles.
They were told to wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.
Drivers should try not to touch gates and doors with their hands. “Use your phone to touch elevator buttons and to gently knock on doors,” the email said.
For “attended” deliveries, in which the customer must be present for the driver to leave the package, Amazon told drivers to place the package on the doorstep, ring or knock — with the phone — and step back at least six feet.
“Greet the customer with a ‘hello,’ and point to the package,” the email said. “No signature is required.”
If an identification check is required, such as for delivery of alcohol, drivers should ask customers to “please place your ID on the ground and step back while I check it, so we maintain distance for your safety and my own.” Drivers are instructed not to touch the customer’s ID, or to do so as little as possible.
Coughs or sneezes should be directed into a tissue or an elbow. “If you are delivering, step 6 feet away from the customer or the packages,” the email said.
Drivers who are feeling ill are instructed to stay home until they have no fever for at least 72 hours without medications, and to inform Amazon Flex support as soon as possible.