Redefining Business as Usual – Health & Safety Planning for Manufacturing Facilities

By: Monica Meyer

While we all are looking forward to things returning to “normal” in our personal and work lives, we are also recognizing COVID-19 is redefining what “business as usual” will look like in the coming months.

What does this uncertainty mean concerning the health and safety of your employees?

Time is of the essence and we need to innovate, not hibernate. While critical business operations continue, it is vital that companies adapt their safety efforts. Deliberate actions must be taken to develop safe-distancing protocols and provide training on the new norms and expectations. Open lines of communication will be critical for personnel to grasp and apply this “new normal” to protect themselves, their families, as well colleagues and the public.

The lack of understanding around how long it will take to manage this outbreak is causing volatility in the markets, businesses, and our personal lives. One thing we can all do is share lessons learned and key information with one another in an effort to define best practices quickly.

We are working with clients and colleagues to develop best practices and assist clients in COVID-19 contingency planning as recently defined by OSHA. Some of the common questions and concerns we have been addressing with clients include:

  • Are we over/under reacting?
  • How are other companies minimizing contact?
  • How do we reduce fatigue while having personnel work longer hours?
  • Can a company regulate personnel interaction during off-work hours?
  • What measures should be in place during lunch and work breaks?
  • Is my company responsible for the costs of medical tests if an employee feels they have been exposed during work hours?
  • Is contraction of COVID-19 a recordable case?

While the world is on pause, accidents are not. We know distractions and additional stress can lead to a rise in workplace incidents. EHS Support has been working side-by-side with our clients and preparedness experts to gather the best data and information possible to provide valuable and practical guidance. Our intent to is offer help and support so we all can progress safely through this turbulent time.

EHS Support is virtually supporting clients’ health and safety planning using the typical hierarchy of controls – elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment. When implemented, these controls can include:

  • Shift management – focus on minimizing the number of people cycling through the site at one time and potentially coming into contact with one another.
    • Reduce the number of shifts per day (increase number of hours per shift and reduce the number of people interacting with one another).
    • Ensure that during shift changes the two groups do not mingle.
      • Move to a virtual hand over – whereby a conference call or WebEx is completed between shift 1 and shift 2. This can involve one group calling in before mobilizing to site.
      • Incorporate shift separations to allow individual workspaces (equipment, controls, tools, etc.) to be fully disinfected between shifts.
      • Stagger shift start and stop times.
      • Use different portions of the parking lot for each shift.
      • Designate ingress and egress points to separate the shift teams on entry and exit from the site.
      • Thoroughly disinfect cafeterias, restrooms, and any shared spaces between shifts.
      • Establish a separate portacom office for shift one and shift two to allow time for cleaning between shifts.
      • Establish additional portable rest room facilities.
      • Incorporate temperature checks prior to work.
  • Engineering Controls
    • Mount physical barriers.
    • Install/change-out high-efficiency air filters.
    • Provide no-touch style trash cans in restrooms.
  • Workflow
    • Develop designated work zones with single staff and reduced staff in each work area. Do not have staff or limited staff moving between work areas.
    • Review and update workspaces to increase distance between employees to a minimum of 6 feet.
    • Ensure only one employee per work vehicle.
    • Stagger lunch and work breaks to minimize interaction between staff.
    • Encourage staff to bring packed lunches to minimize their interaction with the general public during the workday.
    • Ensure regular disinfection of workspaces.
    • Improve access to hand washing and disinfection facilities.
    • Provide a 2-week supply of cleaning agents, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, hand soap, and disposable towels; maintain an inventory of these items.
    • Establish transition zones between work areas where handover of product can be conducted. Operators deliver to an area where the other person can pick up. Thereby stopping staff moving into the other’s work area.
    • Increase the use of radios for communication and eliminate the need for personal handovers.
  • Policies, Procedures, Protocols
    • Develop modified work procedures:
      • Shared tool/workspace restraints
      • 6-foot task separation
      • No-sharing (desks, phones, tools, food)
      • Disinfecting guidelines
      • Reporting of illness
      • Ill workers stay home
      • Implement go/no-go checklist and protocol for when business returns to normal
  • Training
    • Provide timely, up-to-date, and frequent updates on federal/state guidance and company status and expectations.
    • Develop short training decks that are provided at the beginning of each shift focused on:
      • How COVID can spread
      • Why the company is implementing these precautions (safety of employee and their families)
      • New procedures and temporary policies
    • Develop several versions so that when presented at the beginning of each shift it does not appear repetitive.

EHS Support is here for you. We have innovated distance delivery of numerous offerings to ensure that safety doesn’t take a back seat – allowing EHS Managers and supervisors to focus on their daily activities:

  • Desktop audits
  • Safety assessments conducted via Facetime or photos
  • Facilitation of online safety committee meetings
  • Health and safety policy, program, and procedure development
  • Off-shift audits/assessments
  • Health and safety training development
  • Online health and safety training offerings
  • Incident prevention during modified work procedures
  • Stress management
  • Contingency/pandemic program development and training

We must all do our part to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to help prevent against the collapse of the healthcare system. The pandemic needs to last at a very low level until either enough people have had COVID-19 to leave most immune (if immunity last for years, which we do not know), or until a vaccine is created. Thus, the preparation we must do now is crucial to the business continuity and the health and safety of everyone.

Monica MeyerABOUT THE AUTHOR Over the past 16 years, Monica Meyer has been providing strategic and business safety experience to the organizations she supported. During this time, she focused on development of both corporate and facility level Health and Safety programs, developing systems for both compliance and risk management… Read More