With all 50 states operating on some form of partial lockdown, many workers are able to return to their jobs for the first time in months. However, concerns have been raised for factory workers in particular due to how the environments they work in may place them at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection. As a result, the CDC and OSHA issued new joint guidelines earlier this month for manufacturing and industrial facilities.
The goal of the guidelines is to help manufacturers who are “developing plans for continuing operations in the setting of COVID-19.” In general, the guidelines are meant to be used by any manufacturer. Some specific industries highlighted by the agencies include apparel, metals, auto manufacturing, and food processing.
The guidance issued by the agencies mainly focuses on encouraging social distancing measures in the workplace. It’s recommended that workers be spread out at least 6 feet apart while working. Protective barriers and partitions are recommended for areas where social distancing may be hard to implement. Hand washing or sanitizing stations should also be set up throughout the complex for employees to use.
In an effort to stick to these measures, the CDC and OSHA also suggest limiting how many employees are either in an area or working at any given time. Shifts should be staggered, with workstations and other areas thoroughly cleaned. Employees should also receive COVID-19 related education, know how to recognize symptoms, and be able to take sick time without penalty.
Additionally, the guidelines do recommend that employers have their workers wear face masks. However, instead of cloth coverings, they suggest they be equipped with N95 or medical face masks. Workers should also be screened before entering the facilities, by way of temperature checks and verbal screenings asking if they have experienced any potential COVID-19 symptoms in the past 24 hours. While these guidelines are comprehensive, it’s unsure if these will become a legal standard, or enforced in any way.