COVID-19: Tips For Keeping Manufacturing Workers Safe
By: Soumi Eachempati, OHSonline
While many industries are able to protect their employees by allowing them to work-from-home through the pandemic, manufacturing leaders know that this is not possible for their workforce. The nature of the job requires employees to work onsite in close proximity with their colleagues and added preventative measures like plexiglass barriers or private work areas are often not functional in this type of work environment. What’s more, employees whose jobs include physical exertion may be less likely to wear masks, yet present a higher transmission risk due to heavy breathing and sweating.
Though employers in the manufacturing industry face a unique set of challenges when it comes to managing worker safety, there are several protocols which the industry can implement to keep their workers protected.
Educate and Communicate
Educating workers about Covid-19 risks is as important as education on manufacturing safety protocols and equipment use. The first priority is to educate about the potential risk factors and create a culture of safety. Beyond hearing the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases in their city or state, it’s important to help people understand the why behind requested behavior changes, protocols or additional safety practices like mask wearing. Employers should keep open lines of communication with all employees and display extreme patience and empathy in demonstrating why everyone must comply with safety and documentation protocols.
Based on successful COVID-19 related education, employers can then move to creating and enforcing effective safety rules for COVID-19 prevention and recognition.
Identify, Test, Trace
Central to keeping employees safe are surveillance testing, contact tracing and symptom monitoring. It is essential to have public health-based protocols in place for each of these vital measures with full documentation of all efforts and results.
Symptom monitoring should optimally include a daily check-in, with a temperature check and self-reporting on any symptoms. Surveillance testing should be conducted on a regular basis predicated on the risk of the community transmission of Covid-19 and the potential corporate risk of an individual becoming afflicted. Contract tracing should be done any time an employee tests positive for COVID-19. Questions that must be answered in these circumstances include who has been in proximity with those testing positive for Covid-19 and who else may have been exposed for any reason.
Employers should regard testing, tracing and monitoring to be the current costs of doing business. This pandemic will not last forever, but this investment in employee well-being and maintaining a sound corporate brand will yield dividends well into the future.
Verify Vaccination Status
Even with the advent of vaccinations, the pandemic is unfortunately far from over and companies still need to take strict precautions. Understanding the threats of this disease as well as the potential strategies and technologies to combat these challenges will allow companies to optimize their productivity, workforce health, and their brand for now and the foreseeable future.