States are reopening their manufacturing sectors. Here’s what they must follow.
Tuesday, June 02, 2020
The manufacturing industry will have a significant role in the coming economic recovery, so there is optimism to be had with the news of the sector reopening in many places.
But worker safety must be of paramount importance. As we cautiously go into our next phase of battling this pandemic, manufacturing companies are preparing to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19.
Manufacturers of oil and gas, autos, aircraft, and even high-demand industries like food processing have all been struck by COVID-19. As restrictions are eased cautiously, these industries are gearing up, but with the promise of strict adherence to state guidelines.
In reopening, employers have to meet safety standards for the workplace set by the state government and health departments. They and their workers must follow all appropriate social distancing protocols and other safety measures mentioned in various guidelines.
Businesses now have a plethora of state-provided best practices to follow as multiple industries reopen in phases. Gloves, masks, disinfectants, sanitizing products will become an integral part of these operations to slow the spread of a highly contagious virus.
New safety guidelines will build on existing operating models to make social distancing easy for employees. Entire workplaces have to be reengineered to increase the distance between employees; cafeterias will only serve prepackaged food; and large gatherings are to be avoided in break rooms and cafeterias.
Facilities with highly manual work should reopen in a phased manner, and in places where employees cannot maintain physical distance, partitions between workers will be required. Employers will also have to adjust operations and work schedules to minimize contact across workers, reduce density in the facility, and prevent congestion.
While the responsibility of compliance will fall on employers, state officials do not want to have to issue fines unless necessary.
Workers are encouraged to self-identify symptoms or any close contact with someone who is known to have or is suspected of having COVID-19. If any worker contracts the virus, employers must notify the local board of health immediately. The workplace then must be shut down for deep cleaning and disinfecting. Elderly workers or those susceptible to contracting the virus are encouraged to stay home.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom also announced a list of health guidelines that manufacturers, warehouses, retailers, and others must follow to resume business operations. Manufacturing facilities and warehouses that support retailers like clothing, books, and sporting goods have been allowed to restart operations slowly but with modifications.
The state is allowing some regional variation where some counties will move deeper into subsequent stages if they can prove the protection of essential workers, adequate testing and contact tracing, and no deaths. These counties also have to prove that they can manage a surge of cases if there is a resurgence and protect the most vulnerable populations.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is allowing many rural regions and smaller cities of upstate New York to reopen first, industry by industry. These areas have been spared the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak and can ease back to normalcy first.
Elsewhere in the worst-hit state in the country, construction, manufacturing, and curbside retail pickups are among the first wave of businesses set to resume operations. All have to follow the strict plans outlining how they will prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
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