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Coronavirus Safe Manufacturing Guidelines

As the world collectively begins to inch back towards returning to work, most of us hope that things will return to “normal” as quickly as possible so we can get our manufacturing facilities running again. In reality, much of our world will never return to the “normal” we knew just a few short months ago. This guide is intended to be a resource covering important topics that manufacturers are facing right now as we learn how to operate in our new normal.

Keeping Employees Safe

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. By now, we are all well versed in what it means to keep our social distance. Applying that to the manufacturing floor isn’t quite as easy. OSHA recommends the following list of tactics to keep your employees safe:

  • Practice sensible social distancing and maintain six feet between co-workers, where possible.
  • For work activities where social distancing is a challenge, consider limiting the duration of these activities and/or implementing innovative approaches, such as temporarily moving or repositioning workstations to create more distance or installing barriers (e.g., plexiglass shields) between workstations.
  • Train workers on how to properly put on, use/wear, take-off, and maintain protective clothing and equipment.
  • Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent spread of the virus.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ tools and equipment.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus.
  • Promote personal hygiene. If workers do not have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Provide disinfectants and disposable towels workers can use to clean work surfaces.

What Happens if an Employee Gets Sick?

It’s what keeps many of us up at night…how do we protect our employees and what steps do we need to take if we have an outbreak on our production floor. Having a plan in place BEFORE it happens is the most important step.

If an employee is confirmed to have a COVID-19 infection, you should inform your other employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 while at work. You MUST maintain confidentiality, however, of the person infected as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees should then self-monitor for symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath). If other employees develop symptoms, they should follow the same testing and monitoring.

Your next step is to cordon off the area where the sick person was located. It should not be necessary to shut down the entire operation. Ideally, cleaning staff would wait as long as possible (24 hrs minimum) before cleaning with a disinfectant on the EPA N list. Once the area has been cleaned, work can resume as normal in those areas. If it is not possible to clean equipment that might be contaminated, that equipment should be isolated for several days to give the virus time to die off.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): Sick Leave for Employees

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued temporary regulations for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) on April 1, 2020 which confirmed that employees must give notice to their employers of the need to take leave and must provide supporting documentation for requests for paid sick leave and emergency family and medical leave. You will be required to post the new requirements in an area that will be seen.

Under the FFCRA, an employee at a business with fewer than 500 employees is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work because he or she:

  1. Is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order.
  2. Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine.
  3. Is experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. Is caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or isolation order.
  5. Is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable due to coronavirus-related reasons.
  6. Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency has not specified any other substantially similar condition as of yet.

Up to two weeks of paid sick leave is available to qualifying employees. Amounts paid is dependent on each individual situation.

As an employer, it’s hard to balance that line between being understanding and also wanting to not be taken advantage of by employees looking for a loophole. You can require written documentation from each employee requesting leave. The DOL outlines the type of information that can be required, such as:

  • The employee’s name.
  • The date(s) for which leave is requested.
  • The coronavirus-qualifying reason for leave.
  • A statement that the employee can’t work or telework because of this reason.
  • The name of the government entity that issued the quarantine or isolation order to which the employee is subject (if applicable)
  • The name of the health care provider making the quarantine recommendation. (if applicable)
  • Someone caring for a person who is quarantined must provide either the government entity that issued the quarantine or isolation order or the name of the health care provider who advised the individual to self-quarantine. (if applicable)

The bad news for business owners with more than 25 employees… yes, you are responsible for paying the FMLA paid leave and the new FFCRA sick leave provision. The good news is that you might be eligible for some tax credits. If you are smaller than 25 employees you can exempt yourself from the FFCRA, although the process for exempting is unclear at this stage.

Wakefield is committed to helping all of our small business manufacturing partners stay safe. We are all in this together and the pressures facing our industry are unprecedented. We are stronger together and we will lean on each other for support.

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