The ‘other’ information you need to know about selling safely out in the field

employee scanning into office building with touchless card

Much has been said about mask-wearing and handwashing, but what other practical measures and important information do you need to consider when engaging in outside field sales?


Most people now understand the necessity to wear a mask and regularly wash their hands* when moving among others or sharing spaces with them. But what else do field salespeople need to know before visiting customers or stopping at restaurants to grab lunch or dinner? These less discussed practical measures concerning outside salespeople, were answered during our Field Sales Safety Training webinar, free to watch here.

The questions below were answered by South African Occupational Health Specialist, Dr Marina Clarke, on 5 June 2020, during the live webinar (SA was at Lockdown Level 3 during this time).


What should you do if your temperature is scanned in above 38°C at a store, or a customer, and you have been driving with the heater on during cold temperatures in the morning?

Wait in an open area for about 10 minutes and ask them to repeat the screening of your temperature. If you do not have a fever, the repeat measurement will be in the normal range.

I have noticed that my temperature differs from place to place. Is it the thermometers used or does body temperature fluctuate?

A healthy person’s body temperature fluctuates by about 0.5⁰C during the day. But it may also be lack of reliability of different thermometers, how the thermometer is operated, how far the thermometer is held from your forehead, etc. It could also be due to you traveling with your car heater on, or by being in the sun.


How safe it is to sanitize car keys?

Test that the alcohol does not damage the plastic and then, using a damp alcohol wipe, clean the key/remote. Do not let liquid get into the battery compartment, etc.

What about your credit card or business cards?

Clean them by washing with soapy water or with an alcohol-based wipe, as long as the card is not damaged by the alcohol.

Why does the virus stay on cardboard for 24 hours and paper for four to five days?

Cardboard is more absorbent and dries the virus out quicker.

How do you disinfect paper, as it will get wet and crinkle?

Put it in the sun and leave it there for 24 hours.

Paperless selling


Most stores and malls, etc. have hot air blowing through their aircons in winter. Would this be highly unsafe with regard to healthy ventilation?

Yes, it might be. Keep your visit to stores and malls to the absolute minimum, and if you have to go, keep the visit as short as possible.

What special filters does the air conditioner need to be using?

This information must be obtained from the supplier of the air conditioners. Research into whether air conditioners spread the coronavirus is ongoing.

Is it preferable to use a disinfectant or sanitizer on workplace surfaces?

It depends what material/surface/type of item you need to sanitize. Follow manufacturer guidelines.


What do you wipe surfaces with? Can you use a cloth, but how much surface can you cover with this cloth?

Once the bleach solution has been on the surface you are disinfecting, the viability of the virus is destroyed after 30 seconds. It is recommended that you wipe surfaces you disinfect with a dedicated cloth that can be washed, or paper towel that can be discarded.


What is the best course of action if we have to collect returns from a supplier? Some of the items are kept in boxes.

Have a pair of industrial gloves handy in a packet in your vehicle if you need to physically protect your hands. With regard to COVID-19, wear your mask, don’t touch your face/mask and sanitize your hands after delivery/collection. If you use gloves, they need to be sanitized too.


Is it not easier to just disinfect your hand after a sneeze than to have to wash your clothes and walk around with it the whole day at work?

Using hands to cover your mouth does not prevent droplets from spreading, therefore when you sneeze and/or cough, use tissue paper, which you discard immediately afterwards.

It is only when you do not have tissue paper on you that you resort to using your elbow. Yes, you must wash your arm up to the top of your elbow and your clothes when you get home.


I have noticed many places don’t have any regulations when using a lift. What would your advice be?

My advice would be to take the stairs if at all possible (lifts need one to touch buttons to be operated, lack ventilation and social distancing could be problematic). But remember not to touch the banisters. If you must use the lift, wear a mask, turn away from others in the lift, cover your finger with a tissue when touching the buttons, and sanitize your hands afterwards. Also don’t enter a lift that has many people in it. Rather wait for the next one.

My work involves visiting hospitals. Excluding hand-sanitizing, mask-wearing/-changing, what do you suggest for going from one hospital to another?

Spray disinfecting solution on the soles of your shoes after each visit and leave it on for at least 30 seconds then dry it with paper towelling before you get into your car. Be careful to dry so that the disinfectant does not damage your car carpet.


If you order takeaways, can the virus attach itself to the food?

To date there is no evidence that it does. However, it is advised that you heat your takeaway food in a microwave before enjoying it.


What do you do if your customer removes his/her mask while in a visit with you?

You ask them in a kind way to put their face mask back on while you are there. Also ensure that your two-meter social distance is in place. Report the matter to your supervisor and record on your post-meeting assessment


What do I do when I get to an outlet and I see one or two people not wearing masks? Do I enter or leave?

You should carry spare (disposable) masks with you when you meet people. Ask them to wear their masks in your presence and if they do not have masks and you need to meet with them, provide each of them with a mask. Leave the mask with the person.

When putting a used mask into a zip lock bag, will it help to spray an alcohol solution into the bag and seal it? Will this disinfect the mask for wearing latter?

I am unable to guarantee that. A colleague puts his mask on a piece of paper towel with the inside facing down, on his car’s dashboard, and in the sun as much as possible. He sprays alcohol sanitizer on the outside of the mask to disinfect and reuses this mask for the rest of the day. He is alone in the car, thus not wearing a mask while driving.

On the topic of masks, are dust masks effective?

There are various kinds of dust masks. Consult the manufacturer for confirmation that they will filter out particles the size of the virus. The World Health Organization proposes the general public wears a three-layered woven cotton mask in public areas.

While calling on customers is it a good idea to wear disposable gloves?

This is not necessary, as the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters the body via the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes. You can more effectively sanitize your hands without gloves than with gloves.


There are disinfecting spray booths at some customers that a person must walk through. Is this healthy or more damaging to a person’s health and is it legal?

I can’t comment on the legality or generalize regarding the various types of disinfectant spray. But scientists say that while the disinfectants can kill the coronavirus on surfaces, the sprays tend to degrade quickly, so these efforts are far less important than personal hygiene and social distancing. Remember that an infectious person remains infectious after walking through the booth.

With all the contradictory viewpoints from top scientists and research organizations around the world, do you think that we are doing an overkill with regards to precautionary measures? The mortality rate from COVID-19 is significantly lower than influenza B, which has been around for decades and its mortality index is not limited to the elderly but all age groups?

This is a new, highly infective respiratory virus that we learn more about every day. This virus has affected almost every country in the world with devastation at all levels of life. Therefore, it is a matter of risk analysis and caution, rather than too little too late.

The CDC estimates that since October 2019 to mid-March 2020 (six months) between 29,000 and 59,000 people in the United States died from flu. In the five months since COVID-19 has been reported in the United States, 113,500 people are known to have died from COVID-19, and the pandemic has not yet peaked in all of the states: this despite severe lockdowns and mitigation.

You say, “The mortality rate from COVID-19 is significantly lower than influenza B.” John Hopkins University says “Doctors and scientists are working to estimate the mortality rate of COVID-19, but at present, it is thought to be substantially higher than that of most strains of the flu.”

Do you still have questions concerning safe selling in the outside sales field? Perhaps they’re addressed in the extended Q&A available here.

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*These important matters are also addressed in the extended Q&A.