The new lockdown has delivered new challenges for manufacturers – and correct social distancing practices have never been more critical.
Our sector experts share guidance on carrying out key duties – such as team lifting, production line working and communicating within a noisy environment – while continuing to protect your team from the new, more infectious COVID-19 variant.
Cut noise and close communication
To avoid the transmission risks of close-contact communication, try kicking off every shift with a socially distanced team briefing. Conduct day-to-day conversations away from noisy manufacturing areas and hearing protection zones, and put to work practical, non-verbal tools such as notepads and whiteboards.
Keep hands and surfaces clean
Where social distancing is not possible, minimise COVID-19 hazards by increasing the frequency of handwashing and equipment disinfection. Consider appointing a line cleaner to regularly sanitise surfaces (for example, at each break) and installing handwash stations throughout your factory to encourage proper employee hygiene.
Reduce task times
COVID-19 risks take a sharp rise when staff work together for prolonged periods, so keep the activity time for each production line task as short as possible.
Use screens to stop the spread
Separating team members with securely fixed screens can limit COVID-19 threats. If physical barriers aren’t possible, replace face-to-face working with safer back-to-back or side-to-side arrangements.
Create working bubbles
Limit the number of staff who can transmit the disease by reducing each person’s circle of contact.
Establishing ‘fixed teams or partnering’ – which involve small bubbles of a few individuals – may also boost resilience should an outbreak occur, allowing production to continue among discreet groups of workers. As team members often travel in together, remember to review transport arrangements when configuring bubbles.
Follow guidelines for face masks and RPE
Face masks should not be required unless deemed necessary as part of existing controls, such as managing exposure to dusts or fume. Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) should never be shared, and each worker should have their own clearly marked equipment. If staff members would prefer to wear a face covering, then they should be supported in doing so.
Provide safe communal spaces
Shared spaces – such as break rooms, kitchens and toilets – can be virus hotspots, so take steps to prevent exposure even during ‘downtime’. Generally, this means championing good hygiene and including social distancing in everyday work practices, such as creating a fixed break-time rota or preventing staff from congregating in small offices or meeting rooms. This can be helped by installing maximum occupancy signage on communal space doors and removing seating that encourages groups to exceed prescribed limits.
Safeguard workers before and after every shift
Reduce crowding – and viral risks – by staggering arrival and departure times, limiting passengers in corporate vehicles (for example, work minibuses), and introducing one-way systems, foot-flow markings and increased building access points.
Minimise hazards when clocking in and out by providing handwash facilities or hand sanitiser at entry and exit zones, and swap touch-based security systems, including thumbprint devices and keypads, for COVID-secure, non-contact methods, such as supervisors marking staff in.