As noted in the early days of the Coronavirus outbreak, you can’t build jets while working from home. Well, neither can you manufacture, package, and distribute a whole host of “essential” products. Unlike many professional services, there is no “work from home” option that supports manufacturing.
The challenge facing the manufacturing sector during this crisis is two-fold: maintain, and in some instances, drastically ramp up production, while protecting the health of a workforce that may have suffered a sudden downturn in numbers, due to the virus itself, employees fears, or family obligations.
Employee concerns are justified. Most factory workers find themselves working near others. Some fear for their health and safety due to underlying chronic conditions. Those who live with elderly or medically vulnerable relatives face a very valid concern of bringing the virus home.
For the food manufacturing and distribution industries, a third “fold” is found in the additional complication wrought by the abrupt and dramatic shift in demand from the foodservice sector—restaurants and institutions—to the retail supermarket setting. Supply chain interruptions due to a myriad of factors relating to the pandemic further complicate the task of feeding the country in this unprecedented situation.
While some factories are actively engaged in repurposing their facilities to produce suddenly-scarce PPE and hand sanitizer, those in food manufacturing are scrambling to get enough packaging film to repackage products for the retail sector.
While many factories consistently experience ongoing issues with adequate staffing, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a much more challenging scenario. Employers first and foremost recognize that the best way to maintain, and when necessary, increase production is to protect their employees in any way they can.
Strategies to maintain a healthy workplace include—
- Having non-plant floor employees work at home.
- Identifying high-risk employees and isolating them on the job site as much as possible or excusing them from work.
- Conducting weekly interviews to determine risk factors – out of state/out of country travel, family members exhibiting symptoms, family members who have traveled, etc.
- Providing personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer stations, and installing barriers between workstations.
Encourage continued full disclosure concerning symptoms of physical illness, family illnesses, and potential exposure scenarios by —
- Allowing time off without penalty.
- Modifying paid-time-off or vacation policies as needed.
- Allowing employees to borrow from future leave entitlements.
- Increasing paid leave benefits.
Aid adherence to social distancing guidelines by —
- Creating additional shifts (nights or weekends) to separate the workforce further and provide employees with scheduling options that assist them in managing new family obligations with children home from school.
- Staggering shift start/stop times, break times, and lunchtimes to minimize groups gathering at the time clock and in locker rooms/break areas.
- Conducting necessary meetings with fewer people and repeating sessions to accommodate everyone in smaller groups.
- Canceling noncritical routine shift hand-off meetings.
Increase cleaning and sanitizing efforts throughout the factory to both protect everyone better and instill confidence in a safe workplace.
- Station disinfectant wipes throughout the facility
- Ramp up cleaning procedures in restrooms and break rooms
Because the guidebook on operating a manufacturing facility during a pandemic has yet to be written, an atmosphere of flexibility and a spirit of innovation, coupled with an attentive eye, will be the best defense as you strive to bring food to the table for families across the country.
And Gillmann Services, Inc., can help you do just that. As specialists in providing qualified, skilled trades employees to commercial, industrial, mining, manufacturing, and marine construction companies, we are ready and waiting to provide the candidates needed to help your company thrive during this challenging time. Give our team a call today to see what Gillmannn Services can do for you!