Ford Talks Safety Before Reopening
Ford is planning to restart production, as soon as they're allowed.
Automakers around the world are eagerly awaiting the day that they can start building cars again. So are the workers of automakers and suppliers, and since the sector has more than half a million people in Canada, and close to 10 million worldwide, that’s a lot of folks waiting to return to work. But until we’ve found a way to eradicate the virus that causes COVID-19, work inside an auto factory will look much different than it did before. Ford is hoping to get things started sometime this month, and here’s how they’re planning to do it.
“We’ve been working intently on how to restart our operations and safely bring back our employees and we’re ready,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer. “We have gone through and trialed these processes. We’re abiding by our first principles, and we are working with our union and government partners to restart.”
Ford is starting with education, because it doesn’t matter what measures you take if people don’t know about them. That includes a safety playbook that will be made available to workers along with more personal protection and hygiene items like masks and hand sanitizer.
Reopening will come with more time scheduled between shifts. That’s to allow for more cleaning, but also to help ensure you’re not seeing thousands of people walking in and out of the doors at the same time. When possible, workspaces have been changed to allow for social distancing, and if you’ve seen a modern auto factory, there aren’t many clusters of workers anymore anyway. Instead of several people diving into an operation together, you’re more likely to see one individual and a few robots.
Cafeterias, meeting rooms, fitness centers, and other small common areas will stay closed, employees will have to do a self-certification for their health daily, they’ll have their temperature scanned daily, face masks will be required, and face shields will be required when distancing isn’t possible.
“Science and data are driving Ford’s return to work, including close collaboration with experts in the field of infectious disease and epidemiology, to set safety standards we are confident will protect employees as they return to work,” said Dr. Walter Talamonti, corporate medical director at Ford. “The protocols we’ve established will require employees to take multiple steps every day to make sure that they are safe, healthy and able to work.”
Ford is also helping get some of this PPE to dealerships for staff and customers, some of it actually produced by Ford, the rest sourced in bulk.
That leaves the question of when Ford is planning to restart production, and the answer is as soon as they’re allowed. Ford plants in China have already resumed production, including building medical equipment. European operations are set to restart on the fourth of this month. In North America, Ford says, small numbers of workers are already back on site installing the new safety gear and separations. When will plants be back up here? The dates aren’t set yet, but putting safety protocols in place now, and educating staff now, will help it happen as quickly as possible once reopening is allowed.