Best Practices for Reducing COVID-19 Spread in the Plant

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineMarch 30, 2020
by Sean Shields


With residential construction, and it’s supply chain (including component manufacturers), considered an essential industry, SBCA has combed through online advice and pulled together some best practices for mitigating the risk of COIVD-19 virus spread in your manufacturing facility.

The first step OSHA recommends all employers take in preparing their workplace for COVID-19, is to develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. SBCA Legal Counsel Kent Pagel created a template plan that members can download for free (requires member login). Non-members can also purchase this template for $200. Please fill out this brief form to purchase it.

OSHA also recommends all employers implement basic infection prevention measures. Here are some easy steps to consider implementing, if you haven’t already:

  • Consider having all office teams work remotely. In a recent survey of our industry, one-third of respondents are not allowing anyone to work from home. When it isn’t possible, spread out remaining staff as far as possible and use online tools to hold meetings, even for staff in the office.
  • People in the workplace should maintain a six feet distance when they talk, and some things may need to be rearranged in the plant to accommodate others working six feet from one another if possible. As this may become the new normal, any steps you take now to spread areas out may be good for the future too.
  • In SBCA’s COVID-19 FAQs for Employers, one possible way to screen for infection is to implement temperature checks before entering your facility (use IR scanning thermometer that does not require touching skin or ear temperature with an alcohol swab in between). If you implement this measure, consider a policy that states temperature checks are voluntary, but the company reserves the right to send the employee home if they refuse the test or register a temperature above 100.4 degrees (99.6 for the elderly).
  • Where possible, leave doors open, and even consider removing doors to eliminate frequently touched surfaces like door knobs.
  • In addition to open doors, open windows where possible to increase ventilation rates and increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates through the building.
  • Use no-touch disposal receptacles or, where practical and possible, remove lids that require contact to open.
  • Frequently perform enhanced environmental cleaning of commonly touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, railings, door handles and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. Provide disposable wipes, if available, so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.
  • Eliminate all routine shift hand-off meetings, or conduct them virtually or over the phone.
  • Consider shift changes. If you can move from one or two shifts to two or three shifts and keep each shift with the same people each day, then if one shift is sick the others will have much more limited risk of exposure. This arrangement can also work by having one crew for part of the week and one crew for the other part of the week.
  • Stagger shift start/stop times, break times, and lunchtimes to minimize congregations near common break areas.
  • Consider alternatives to eliminate lines at time clocks.
  • Designate zones in your facility and prohibit employees from wandering into zones where they do not need to be to perform their jobs.
  • Institute isolation for key personnel without whom the manufacturing facility (e.g. maintenance) cannot operate to prevent them from getting ill.
  • Reinforce key messages – stay home when sick, use cough and sneeze etiquette and practice hand hygiene – to all employees, and place posters in areas where they are most likely to be seen. Provide protection supplies such as soap and water, hand sanitizer, tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees. Consider posting this handy symptom chart in conspicuous areas.