May 11, 2020

What Are Manufacturers Doing To Prepare For Reopening?

The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) recently polled its members to assess planning and readiness for return to work. The survey found:

  • Manufacturers are confident in their ability to execute effectively on critical return to work policies under COVID-19, including: screening, use of facial coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, workforce safety communications, telework, and travel restrictions.
  • Manufacturers are concerned about slumping demand and workforce safety.
  • For nine in 10 companies, capacity utilization has been lower during the pandemic, with more than half of companies reporting a moderate to extreme change in number of factory employees working regular hours.
  • Nearly nine in 10 now require or will require six feet of distance between employees, and more than two-thirds are banning outside visitors except for deliveries.
  • Many employers are considering reinstating employees in stages, rotating teams, staggering start times, and customizing hours and shifts.

As Connecting the Dots has reported previously, the law firm Kelley-Drye, recommends that employers “should be developing a careful, considered plan to bring their workforces back.” Specifically, the firm recommends companies:

  • Consider a phased approach. Bring back employees in small groups or “waves” to minimize the risk of infection. This could include alternating when employees can come in, redesigning open floor plans temporarily to allow employees to spread out, or installing partitions between workspaces.
  • Consider temperature checks. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has authorized temperature checks at work. Three points to consider, however: do not attempt to obtain more information than is necessary (employers do not need a full medical history); continue to keep all information private (conduct screenings outside of view of others); and remember that a temperature check reveals someone’s temperature, not the presence of a virus. Send employees with temperatures home and tell them to seek a medical diagnosis.
  • Consider waiting. Employers should take caution in opening their offices at a time when the outbreak is still at an all-time high and remember that short-term economic gains can easily be lost if, longer-term, renewed COVID-19 transmissions puts half of a workforce in quarantine.

Other resources that might be of interest to companies contemplating these questions include:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency guidance on personal protective equipment.
  • MSCI’s webinar with Galasso, Corporate Director, Health, Safety and Environment for Samuel, Son & Co., which discusses appropriate methods to maintain a safe work environment and how to prepare for ongoing COVID-19 interruptions and the re-opening of locations. Click here for more information from this session.
  • This National Association of Manufacturers’ webinar, which outlines best practices for preparing operations for a return to work, as well as what companies can do to ensure employees are confident that facilities are safe and ready for business.
  • NAM’s proposals for protecting employers from liability for COVID-19-related lawsuits.