COVID-19 Manufacturing Facility Guidelines. Since January 2020, the spread of the infectious corona virus has affected not only the health but the economy of various countries. Corona virus is a respiratory disease caused by SARS COV 2 virus. Corona virus presents as a cough, sore throat, fever, difficulty in breathing, chills, headache, and muscle pains. Some patients are asymptomatic but have the potential to transmit the disease. According to the latest information from the CDC on COVID-19, the virus is spread via respiratory droplets from an infected person within a 2 meter vicinity. Recent research has also shown that the virus remains viable on surfaces for up to nine days if the surface is not adequately cleaned.
Many businesses have experienced losses with mandatory lock-downs, flight cancellations, and time curfews being implemented by the governments to stop the spread of corona virus. Some small and medium-sized enterprises are laying off workers as they try to cut down on costs. In the wake of an unprecedented pandemic, the CDC has issued new guidelines for manufacturing companies to help curb the spread of corona virus at the workplace.
Local, state, and federal entities have classified some enterprises as critical to the running of society. Therefore, workers who work in these sectors are considered crucial workers. Managers and administrators of critical industries have been tasked with putting in place measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 at workplaces.
What procedures can be established using COVID-19 manufacturing facility guidelines
A COVID-19 management plan for manufacturing plants should aim at minimizing the chances of infection by implementing the CDC guidelines to stop the spread of corona virus, which include:
Factories and manufacturing facilities should put in place measures that ensure social distancing practices and the use of other protective clothing. Work stations should ensure that employees are at a distance of 6 feet. The use of physical barriers like plexiglass or cardboard are encouraged.
Heating and ventilation
Industrial environments should ensure sufficient ventilation in the work area. Fans can help minimize the chances of employee exposure. Air vents should be strategically placed to ensure that air is not blown from one employee to another.
Infrastructure placed in common rooms like cafeterias and break rooms should allow employees to maintain physical distance. Clock-in stations should ensure the minimal flow of workers. Management may also consider increasing the number of clock-in stations.
Management should implement proper hand hygiene practices by setting up hand washing stations equipped with a constant supply of water, touch-free soap, and single-use paper towels. In addition, hand sanitation stations should be equipped with at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizers and should be touch-free.
Limiting Employee traffic
Management should limit access to the plant by limiting in-house visits and ensuring that only scheduled employees are on the premises. They should hold meetings comprised of smaller groups while still practicing the six-foot distance requirement. Companies can take the extra measure of employing a qualified workplace coordinator whose prime responsibility will be to monitor corona virus control measures put in place by the management. The coordinator should be aware of all state and federal laws regarding public health corona virus guidelines. In addition, they could install camera systems within the facility.
Employee work schedules
Management should organize workers into shifts that will allow for optimal industrial production while ensuring employee protection against corona virus. Companies should organize three to four group shifts for 24 hours with intermittent scrupulous cleaning of the working stations in between the shifts. It is advised that the companies use the cohorting mechanism where they group the workers into smaller work-groups. Each work-group will perform their tasks during similar work shifts. This will aid in contact tracing of infected personnel and minimize the chance of infection by reducing the number of workers that come into contact with one another in a specified period.
Schedule different clock in and clock out periods and stagger the employee break schedule to reduce crowding in the parking area, restrooms, cafeterias, and locker rooms. Visual cues like signs and floor markings should be strategically placed to remind workers to wash their hands and observe the social distancing rules regularly. Limit the number of employees using the company’s facilities like vehicles at any one given time.
The CDC guidelines require that all workers should wear a cloth face mask that covers the mouth and nose. Cloth face masks are meant to protect the wearer from infecting other people. It should be a multilayered fabric that snugly fits against the sides of the face and allows for easy breathing.
Screening and testing
The company should screen all employees before they enter the premises via regular temperature checks. If any employee records a fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or reports symptoms of corona virus, they should not be allowed to enter the premises. The company should offer personal protective equipment like the N95 filtering face masks to workers performing the screening services. Routine verbal and actual screening of corona virus is recommended.
They should create an open communication policy where employees can report cases of themselves or their co-workers who may have screened positive for corona virus or are presenting with symptoms of the same.
There should be regular training of employees on proper hand washing techniques, the signs and symptoms of corona virus, how to wear a face mask, the risks and how the virus spreads, proper coughing and sneezing etiquette, and personal preventive measures. Visual cues should be placed in common areas and other workplaces where they are likely to be seen. They should be clear and written in a language that the employees can understand as per OSHA requirements.
Cleaning and sanitation
Management should ensure that all tools, equipment, and employee workstations are thoroughly cleaned as per the EPA’s cleaning requirements for viral infection. The thorough disinfection of work spaces and tools in between the shifts should be done routinely. If a worker has been reported infected with corona virus, immediate contact tracing of all personnel likely to be exposed should be done. Their work stations, tools, and other suspected infected areas should be cleaned thoroughly.
How to deal with infected or asymptomatic workers?
Workers that have reported to have symptoms or have a confirmatory diagnosis of corona virus should be immediately isolated, and contact tracing of other potential infections be done. The personnel dealing with infected persons should be well equipped with the appropriate PPE. The management must handle the situation as per the CDC Public Health Recommendation for Community Related Exposure.
As per the CDC Critical Infrastructure Guidance, all asymptomatic and exposed employees as allowed to continue working, provided they adhere to all safety precautions. However, additional safety precautions need to be put in place for such individuals. It is recommended to consult the state and local health officers to come up with an appropriate plan for such individuals.
COVID-19 guidelines for previously infected manufacturing employees.
As per the CDC and OSHA Interim Guidelines , all workers that previously tested positive for corona virus have received treatment and have tested negative for corona virus are allowed to resume work. However, they should abide by the additional safety and precaution requirements as set out by the state and local health officers.
In summary, manufacturing industries should:
- Limit the number of workers on site.
- Put in place checks and controls that will minimize the spread of corona virus.
- Conduct frequent screening and testing of employees.
- Practice proper cleaning, sanitation, and disinfection techniques of all personnel, premises, and equipment.
- Arrange for employee training and education.
- Lastly, put in place measures to manage sick employees and suspected exposures.
*This article is meant as an overview of current COVID-19 Manufacturing Facility Guidelines based on CDC and OSHA bulletins. Refer to state and local directives that apply to your region and industry for the most accurate information. ECF Automation is taking COVID-19 very seriously and has implemented a work-at-home policy for all administrative and sales team members.