Governor Gretchen Whitmer allowed the manufacturing sector to restart on Monday, May 11th, and Big 3 auto plants began bringing back their workers. After just three days of working, an employee at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, tested positive for COVID-19.
Before workers were recalled, FCA established safety protocols and mailed employees a packet of information describing the changes to their work environment. The company provided employees with information about what FCA did to get the plants ready for their return, including a thorough cleaning and redesigned work and break areas, along with what they will continue to do once workers are regularly in the plants.
There were also detailed instructions on the role employees would play in keeping themselves and their coworkers safe. These included a daily risk assessment each employee would need to perform before entering the workplace, the use of PPE, hygiene practices, and rules for social distancing.
Now that work has begun, the company shows no signs of slowing down in the face of a COVID-19 positive employee. Mark Stewart, COO of FCA North America, said in a letter to employees, “I am pleased to say that our protocols worked as envisaged. The person was isolated and quarantined, more importantly our social distancing and personal protection equipment protocols were in full use. Face masks and safety glasses which are now mandatory in our plants, and are issued as people enter, were being worn and this along with the newly installed protective barriers between certain stations on our assembly line illustrated the depth and professionalism of the planning that has been put in place to prepare for the opening of our plants and the protection of our people.”
He went on to say, “While none of us want to see anyone impacted by COVID-19, if and when we have colleagues affected, we have the layers of safety protocols designed to protect us all.”
The situation at FCA demonstrates something all workers and employers will be faced with as the country seeks to return to work and restart the economy. Despite the best laid plans, COVID-19 can still spread in the community. This reality shows the importance of instituting safety protocols, no matter how cumbersome they may seem, and it underscores each individual’s responsibility to contribute to their own safety and the safety of those around them.
Reporting for WGRT – Jessie Wiegand