How manufacturers are keeping their employees safe
Tuesday, September 01, 2020
The disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused has been felt across the world of manufacturing. Manufacturers have been some of those companies on the front lines to lead the country through recovery and renewal. While the service industry has come to a halt in some cases, manufacturers have had to keep operations up and running.
Unlike many industries that quickly pivoted to remote work, factories cannot function with a fully remote workforce. At the same time, they must ensure the safety of the employees on the job. Manufacturers have put in place some of the stringent social distancing and safety rules for employees to follow.
Some, like the Big Three automakers, have decided to ignore relaxed CDC rules and have remained vigilant. They are not taking any chances when it comes to the health and safety of their employees. Most are strictly following the guidelines set by OSHA.
Ford has launched a massive health safety campaign, which includes a COVID-19 contract with employees. It states their commitment to safe practices that will protect all against the spread of COVID-19. Ford employees and their families must agree to a list of items to keep themselves safe at home or outside.
While automakers enforced strict coronavirus precautions as they resumed production, their showrooms' rules were less stringent. Now they are offering dealerships guidance to exceed local orders and follow the same stringent protocols that they use in their manufacturing facilities.
Solutions from U.K.-based company Pathfindr are going a long way to help manufacturing companies maintain their safety norms. Its sensors use Bluetooth and GPS to track components during the manufacturing process.
The company started with a prototype of motion-sensitive jewelry to help employees maintain social distancing rules. The object would zap a wearer if they reached for their face. Pathfindr's engineers then came up with the winning solution: the "Safe Distancing Assistant." The gadget warns users when others come too close to their six-foot social distancing space.
It uses technologies like Bluetooth and ultra-wideband radio, which work to keep employees separated and safe in six-feet-apart enclosed spaces. The tool has received positive feedback from the big manufacturing firms looking to get back to 100% operational capacity. Experts say that this innovative technology can even be used in massive public places like theme parks to help ensure social distancing and keep families close together.
While a third of employees may work from home, companies still need in-person workers and have to make sure that they have adequate PPE, like face masks, ear coverings, face mask extenders, and shields. There is now an increased focus on digitization processes so that remote management is more efficient.
The manufacturing industry needs over 1.7 billion facial coverings per month, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). According to the White House Supply Chain Task Force, this demand for PPE may continue through 2023.
Thus, manufacturers need all the help they can get, and NAM is working with the federal government to give them that. They are acting as a go-between to help manufacturers get protective gear like the millions of masks and gloves for America's workforce. Manufacturers are urged to add capacity by investing in new production lines or retooling existing ones.
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