Coordinated effort for cleaning, safety supplies will go through central stores

As departments plan for increased campus operations this summer into the fall and purchase supplies to keep workspaces clean and employees safe, they are strongly encouraged to place their orders through ISU's central stores. President Wendy Wintersteen included this request in her May 26 email to faculty and staff.

The central stores website features a COVID-19 "back to work essentials" website populated with products handpicked collaboratively by staff from central stores and environmental health and safety (EHS). It includes products such as disinfectants, gloves, goggles and face shields, infrared thermometer and hand sanitizer.

Cloth face coverings

Campus units also should work with central stores to reserve cloth face coverings for employees who need them when they return to work in their building. (Individual employees are asked to not reserve for themselves.) The central stores website includes a page just for this purpose. These are provided at no cost to the unit, up to two face coverings per employee. The initial batch of solid black face coverings has been distributed and the next batch will feature university colors and brand. Units should reserve quantities now so when they arrive they can be distributed quickly.

"In the current environment, coordinating these purchases will go a long way toward maximizing our price point and, more importantly, getting employees products we know will work," said EHS director Paul Richmond, who chairs the university's COVID-19 workforce protection working group. "They've been evaluated for their effectiveness -- for example, a disinfectant that is the most effective while being the least harmful to those using it."

Central stores supervisor Bill Spratt encouraged employees to stay flexible with their product requests, and to use approved products they need even when it's not the specific brands they want. For example, he said central stores has more than 200 gallons of a liquid sanitizer produced by Iowa Prison Industries that works effectively on hands and office surfaces. Is it a gel that smells like aloe? No. Does it work? Yes.

While units could find what they want from a local or online retailer, Richmond pointed to several reasons university leaders are asking the campus community to work together to secure cleaning and personal safety supplies:

  • Buying power. Central stores works closely with its vendors and can negotiate a better price by buying in bulk.
  • No scams. Demand is creating opportunity for scammers selling fake items or not fulfilling orders, and the university has seen an increase in fraud. Work with central stores to avoid being the victim of a scam.
  • FEMA tracking. The operations and finance division must track these purchases to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement. Purchases through a central point reduce the amount of paperwork and are more efficient. Individual purchases increase the volume of documents and staff time necessary for reimbursement.
  • Proper products for the job. As mentioned, environmental health and safety worked with central stores to ensure that available cleaning supplies are safe and effective for cleaning offices and labs.

Supply chain challenges

The national supply chain is tenuous, though improving, said Jared Hohanshelt, director of logistics and support services, which includes central stores. Purchasing large quantities of certain items -- gel hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes or N95 masks for research, for example -- is difficult for everyone, not just universities.

"We ask for everyone's patience as we work to get some of these products to campus. We have contracts, and we know we're going to receive them," he said.

"People may feel pressure to have products in hand in a week or two, and we understand that anxiety. But with employees gradually returning to campus, there is still time to receive product orders. We will supply the university community with what it needs," he said.

Worktag for pandemic-related supplies

Departments and units should use the department detail DD11790 worktag for any expenses, credits and refunds directly related to the COVID-19 response. This includes cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment outside of their routine orders.