As we recognize National Safety Month, every employer is facing the “new normal” of safety in manufacturing and warehousing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most supply chain businesses and those in industrial workplaces are considered essential and have been working throughout this challenging time. But, depending on where your facility is located, you may have been working with reduced staff, have furloughed employees, or remote workers who have or will be rejoining your ranks soon. How can you keep them safe? How can you navigate the “new normal” in your plant or warehouse?
Guidance for Manufacturers from the CDC
One vital resource for employers during this time is the CDC website. Both manufacturing and warehousing sectors can benefit from their recommendations. It offers guidance for companies on how to safely operate with actions in three main categories: planning, preparing, and responding. Many manufacturing facilities are identified by the U.S. governments CISA division as part of the critical manufacturing sector, and CISA includes material handling equipment and services as essential.
CDC’s Critical Infrastructure Guidance advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), provided they remain asymptomatic, have not had a positive test result for COVID-19, and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. Facilities that are not part of the critical manufacturing sector should follow the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure following a workers’ potential exposure to COVID-19.
If your facility continues to remain operational during the pandemic or is returning to full operating capacity with workers who are potentially exposed to the virus, the CDC offers this advice to properly address safety in manufacturing and warehousing environments:
- Work directly with appropriate state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals;
- Incorporate relevant aspects of CDC guidance, including but not limited to this document and the CDC’s Critical Infrastructure Guidance; and
- Incorporate guidance from other authoritative sources or regulatory bodies as needed.
Manufacturing plants have unique challenges when it comes to worker safety. This is especially true where work must continue with multiple employees in close quarters with each other. The factors that are unique to manufacturing workers include: distance between workers, duration of contact, type of contact, and closeness during transport to and from the facility.
In this graphic provided by the CDC, visual guidance is offered on how to align workstations for optimal mitigation.
SAFER Program from the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council has released the SAFER program (Safe Actions for Employee Returns) as specific guidance to employers reopening and that have employees returning to work. Its aim is to help employers “prioritize safety as they return employees to traditional work environments and schedules in a post-quarantine world.”
SAFER is a program developed by a task force comprised of Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits (such as the NSC, ASSP, and AIHA), and legal experts. Also included in the task force are material handling equipment distributors like Grainger and large manufacturers like Cummins and Terex. We commend the task force for offering wide-ranging resources including checklists, guidebooks, graphics, and strategies to help returning workers stay safe. You can find all of the SAFER resources on the NSC site, including the Return-to-Work Guidance for Closed Industrial Operations.
More Resources for Manufacturing, Warehouses, and Distribution Centers
Since February or March of this year, you’ve probably been taking extra safety measures in your facility. Maybe you’ve set up additional hand sanitizer stations, staggered shifts to reduce employee interactions, or found the top ways to keep your facility safe during a pandemic. In addition to all of this and the CDC’s guidance above, what other best practices or guidance can help your employees stay safe?
We’ve compiled a quick list of resources so you can be confident in the employee safety measures you take as we navigate the “new normal” workplace. And, since pallet rack safety is our business, we also encourage you to review some of our warehouse safety blog posts for additional tips.
- WERC – Spreading Safety: Engaging Your Warehouse Employees and Leaders
- Cisco-Eagle – Into The Unknown – Cold Storage And COVID-19
- CDC – Guidance for Businesses and Workplaces
- NAM – COVID-19 Resources
- NSC – Return-to-Work Guidance for Closed Industrial Operations
- ASSP – Working Together for Safety: Our Changing Role (webinar)
- OSHA – OSHA Guidance for Varying Work Environments
Communication is Key to the New Normal
In all of the resources available for employers, the overarching theme is easy to recognize: communication. Communicating with your staff about the changes to your workplace, the expectations you have of each staff member regarding new safety measures, and ongoing, thorough communication as processes evolve in the coming months. The NSC recommends that communications with employees be effective, timely, and frequent. The NSC communications playbook sums it up best by stating that communicating with employees using the effective-timely-frequent method engages employees and helps create “the shared sense of safety and security among a workforce and ease the process of returning to work.”
We’re here for you, too
We’ve just elaborated that communication is crucial during this time. It’s not only important to maintain communication within your facility and among your employees, but also on a larger scale. If you have any questions about how to improve safety in your manufacturing and warehousing environment — don’t hesitate to reach out to us! You can contact us today or even request a free sample of one or more of our products.