As you ramp up your manufacturing operations, here are some safety best practices for moving forward.
As we’re making progress adjusting to life with COVID-19 in the U.S., we’re starting to see our business and manufacturing sector come back to life. However, when restarting your business, it’s not as simple as unlocking the door and turning on the lights. Based on my experience as a safety consultant for Sentry Insurance, I’ll walk you through some important things to keep in mind to get your manufacturing business and your employees safely back up to speed.
Communication is key in continuing to provide a safe environment for your employees. Before their return, determine what new safety measures you’ll have in place. Will you be screening body temperatures before your employees enter the building? Will they be required to wear masks? What are your plans to reduce public touch points, such as coffee makers, vending machines, and doors?
You may want to create a task force or charge your safety committee with establishing these new safety measures. Then, before your employees return, be sure to let them know what their role will be to remain safe and healthy at work. Place posters at the entrance and where employees and customers are likely to see them on their return.
Look to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for guidance. The CDC has a section on its website dedicated to businesses and employers which contains step-by-step guidelines for mitigating COVID-19 infection at your workplace.
Assign your task force to review this website regularly and coordinate the distribution of information to your employees. Education, and following up on good information with appropriate action, can help reduce COVID-19 exposure and prevent further business disruption.
How to handle onsite visitors
Being back in business also means you’ll have to care for visitors on your property. Here are some guidelines to have in place when contractors, vendors, and other visitors come calling.
So what are the expectations for visitors, including business partners, service contractors, and delivery drivers?
First off, if visitors aren’t involved with essential operations, postpone their visits for as long as necessary.
For those visitors who need to be onsite and entering your facility, implement a pre-screening process. As part of that process, have them answer a short questionnaire. The questionnaire should include inquiries about:
- Whether they traveled outside their local community in the last 14 days
- Whether they’ve had any close contact with people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19
- Whether they’re currently experiencing any unexplained health symptoms
Performing your due diligence before visitors enter your facility can help prevent health issues at your business. Of course, visitors should also continue social distancing practices and wear PPE depending on your policy and state requirements.
Update your travel policy
Not only are travel restrictions in place into and out of the country, but many states are asking residents to reduce non-essential travel and some have ongoing stay-at-home orders. Please be aware of any non-essential travel bans in your state, and follow those guidelines.
If you don’t already have a travel policy in place, develop one now. Be sure it includes guidelines for reducing COVID-19 exposures for employees required to travel on behalf of the business or who travel for personal reasons, and vendors planning to visit your facility.
To help you make informed decisions, the CDC has an interactive U.S. map containing COVID-19 infection data by state, including total cases and new cases in the last seven days. Along with other sources, the map can be a tool to either complement or integrate into your travel policy. It helps identify states you may consider for restricted travel due to persistent community spread or a spike in cases.
Your travel policy should also include managing returning employees who have traveled into high-risk areas.
Adjusting to the new normal
It’s no longer business as usual. And change is never easy. As you and your employees transition into a new work environment, encourage your managers and supervisors to set a good example during the transition. Empathy, patience, and compassion can go a long way in providing your employees peace of mind.
Building and maintaining a culture of safety at your manufacturing business is important, and the above tips, when combined with consulting local experts, can help you establish practical safety guidelines that make sense for your business and employees.
Bob Daisy, CSHO, CIEE, COEE, is a senior safety consultant for Sentry Insurance a Mutual Company. Sentry Insurance provides property, casualty, life insurance, and retirement products to manufacturers and businesses. You can reach Bob at Bob.Daisy@sentry.com or visit www.sentry.com.