As COVID-19 deaths continue to rise in Michigan and the U.S., the underlining question is less when nonessential employees get back to work — when the virus is contained — but how.
Southfield, Mich.-based automotive seating supplier Lear Corp. released a guide April 6 called "Safe Work Playbook" outlining protocols and procedures on how employers can resume operations when it is deemed safe to do so, but before a widespread vaccine is available.
The playbook is available for download and Lear said on its website it is accepting suggestions for future updates. Lear has also been making face masks that it has donated to the Detroit Medical Center and first responders in Detroit and is in development on face shields.
Lear CEO Ray Scott is a member of an advisory group the Michigan Economic Recovery Council formed over the weekend to make recommendations to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on changes in worker safety practices. Much of the group's executives operate in China, which has returned to 90 percent capacity for automotive production since the coronavirus hit there in January, and are looking to implement those best practices stateside.
The 51-page playbook includes detailed sections on establishing a pandemic response team, disinfectant procedures, onsite health screening, protocols for isolating sick workers, and more.
"This has been a difficult time for everyone, and reestablishing a workplace where employees feel comfortable performing their jobs safely is a multi-faceted challenge," Scott said in a press release. "Our cross-functional team has poured many hours into creating this playbook with one goal in mind — keeping our teams as safe, prepared and informed as possible. It is our hope that by sharing this resource we can help other organizations accomplish the same goals, as everyone adapts to new operating protocols in today's still challenging conditions."
At least one worker at Lear's Hammond, Ind., plant tested positive for COVID-19 and another presumed positive before the company shut down the plant on March 18, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported.The company also suspended dividends and share repurchases last month, as well as drawing down $1 billion of the its $1.75 billion in available credit. It also suspended its investor day conference to be held at its Southfield headquarters on June 9.
To reopen a plant safely, Lear urges the setup of a pandemic response team at each plant, which includes the plant manager and other management in control of accessing the property, virus prevention protocols, sanitizing and disinfecting, training and personal protective equipment (PPE).
For PPEs, which currently are in short supply for hospital workers, Lear recommends each plant have in stock at least a 30-day supply of surgical masks and nitrile gloves for all employees, one infrared thermometer per 100 employees to check temperatures before entering the plant, a 30-day supply of disinfectant sprays, hand sanitizer, hand soap, paper towels, face shields and biohazard containers.
The playbook also outlines a detailed matrix for disinfecting an entire plant, including method, frequency and type of disinfectant. For example, conveyor belts on the factory floor should be sprayed at least once in the morning and afternoon with a hospital-grade disinfectant or 10 percent chlorine beach solution, Lear said.
The guide also calls for disinfecting all material, packages or parts, brought into the plant be disinfected unless it's been in storage or in transit for more than 48 hours.
Other recommendations deal with how to immediately isolate employees who feel ill and trace the exposure of other employees.
The layout of work stations is also addressed, suggesting lines be structured for employees to remain 3-6 feet apart. If that is not met, PPE should be worn, such as surgical masks and face shields.
Employees are also assigned teams, which provides them with a time and door to enter and exit the building to minimize contact with coworkers.
In the event of two or more employees test positive for COVID-19, all employees will be health screened before they are allowed to enter a facility, much like hospitals are currently, through a temperature check and questionnaire. That protocol can end 15 days after the last positive test.
China is largely back to "normal" operations with 76.8 percent of businesses back open as of March 29, CNBC reported. But many of the protocols Americans are coming under, such as temperature checks and PPE, remain in place today.