Automakers General Motors (GM), Ford and Fiat Chrysler will gradually reopen their factories in the US but will implement changes to protect their workers against the coronavirus.
GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will begin restarting their US factories this week but will implement big changes to protect their workers against the coronavirus pandemic.
GM expects around 15,000 of its 48,000 factory workers to come in on Monday. More employees will be reporting in the coming weeks as production continually increases.
On the other hand, Ford said it is expecting 80% of its factory employees to show up for work, totaling around 59,000 people. At Fiat Chrysler, about a third of the company’s hourly workforce or approximately 16,000 factory workers will report.
Changes in the workplace
Factory workers will be greeted by workplaces that will look somewhat different from the ones they left prior to the plant closures.
Ford chief executive officer (CEO) Jim Hackett said: “We work really hard at imagining a world with Covid-19 in an assembly plant.”
“So they have lots of consideration, of course, for social distancing. We used to have two people, for example, that would be inside the vehicle as it’s going down the assembly line. We stopped that,” he explained.
All three automakers have said that their facilities will be thoroughly and frequently cleaned and this will be done by allotting extra time between shifts.
To be able to do this, Ford’s factories, which previously ran on three shifts, will be working on two shifts to allow extra time for cleaning. Meanwhile, 10 minutes per shift will be given to cleaning at Fiat Chrysler factories.
The three companies have also pledged to screen employees with questionnaires before they were allowed to report to work, as well as administer temperature checks upon entry to plants or other facilities.
Employees who have recently been exposed to a person with the virus or exhibit a high temperature or other Covid-19-related symptoms will be sent to local clinics for testing before they can go back to work.
Social distancing within the workplace
Inside the work areas, employees will be at least six feet apart from one another whenever possible.
The companies said workstations will be separated by clear plastic panels while workers will be required to wear surgical-style face masks and clear plastic face shields or goggles whenever they’re required to work close to one another.
Hackett said that at Ford, they will test watches that warn wearers if they get too close to someone who is also wearing one of the devices.
The three automakers will also implement changes to common areas within the facilities, such as dining areas, in order to keep workers apart. Fiat Chrysler used plastic dividers on break area tables, which reduced seating from six to three.
Jim Glynn, GM’s vice president for global safety, pointed out that automobile factories in the future may look different from the current ones since they may take physical distancing into account in their initial design.
Glynn said: “Because we could face another pandemic at some point in time. And so we want us to definitely be much better prepared. So I think this will definitely play a part in how we lay out facilities.”