Businesses have adapted to a radically new economic and operating landscape but remote working cannot work for companies that manufacture. Employees need to work onsite for factory production work and during the pandemic, manufacturers are more needed than ever. We rely upon them for much-needed supplies such as medical and home-essential supplies and they are the ones that will not let the supply chains reach a standstill.
Since the situations are challenging, the following considerations can help manufacturers to operate safely and productively.
1. Identify And Exclude High-Risk People
Manufacturers need to recognize and bar employees from the factory that have symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.
Some of the ways to recognize them are:
- Doing temperature screening of employees whenever they come to work and stopping those having temperature above 100.4 degrees. Get a trained screener to do the job and protect the privacy of the tested employees.
- Doing frequent surveys or interviews and asking for self-identification. To avoid getting fired, employees can be reluctant in accepting to live with someone having symptoms. Therefore, employers should decrease the difficulties like economic consequences of self-disclosures.
- Identify sick employees and send them home.
- Keep checking if any employee looks ill and/or shows symptoms of COVID-19. Separate the sick employee from others immediately and send him or her home.
- Promote a “see something, say something” mindset so that employees willingly notify if anyone in the factory is demonstrating COVID-19 symptoms.
2. Consider If You Are A “Critical Infrastructure” Business
On April 8, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its new Interim Guidance which offers that crucial infrastructure workers can work even after potential exposure to COVID-19 to make sure that essential operations under certain circumstances can continue.
The guidance especially applies to critical infrastructure workforces such as workers and contractors in the food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, informational technology, transportation, energy, and government facilities industries. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) website and the CDC’s first responder guidance website provides further information to recognize critical infrastructure workers.
The guidance allows an asymptomatic critical infrastructure worker to work as long as that person remains without symptoms and additional precautions are already being taken. The employee should be sent home as soon s/he develops symptoms and the factory should be cleaned and disinfected.
Although the guidance allows asymptomatic workers to continue to work they have to observe the following additional precautions before and during each work shift:
- Pre-Screening: The CDC directs employers to check the temperature of the employees to know whether they have any symptoms before they start working. As per the CDC recommendation, the temperature has to be measured before the employee enters the workplace.
- Regular Monitoring: The employee needs to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms “under the supervision of the employer’s occupational health program.”
- Wear a Mask: The guidance instructs that the exposed employee must cover the face at all times with a face mask or some cloth if masks are unavailable, for 14 days after the last exposure.
- Social Distancing: The exposed employee has to maintain social distancing, and try to stay at least six feet away from others. The CDC also recommends that the employees should maintain social distancing even during breaks as well.
- Disinfect and Clean WorkSpaces: The employer should clean and disinfect all parts of the workplace such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, and shared electronic equipment regularly. CDC recommendation is to increase the frequency of cleaning commonly touched surfaces, and avoid sharing headsets or other such items among employees that are near employees’ mouths or noses.
3. Keep Employees Safe At Work
Some steps should be taken by employers to maintain a safe work environment. Changes have to be made to maximize employee health and ensure the continuousness of operations. Below are some of the important safety ideas:
- Ban all non-essential visitors to the workplace. Screen essential visitors thoroughly and minimize their movement in the workplace.
- Educate employees on self-responsibility behaviors including respiratory etiquette, hand washing, using hand sanitizers, minimizing physical contact, no sharing of utensils, cups, beverages, etc.
- Maintain social distance and avoid large group meetings.
- Have meetings in smaller groups and keep space between people in the meeting room.
- Try to minimize congregations by rotating break times and lunchtimes.
- Zone the factory and stop your staff from roaming into zones unnecessarily.
- Start cross-training while maintaining distance to make up for absences.
- Increase sanitizing efforts, and offer sanitary wipes so that the employees continue using them to clean high-touch surfaces.
These are some of the guidelines to keep the factory workforce safe, healthy, and productive.