As General Motors makes preparations to bring production operations back online after an extended suspension, it is testing new protocols designed to keep employees safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report from Detroit Free Press, the General Motors manufacturing facility in Arlington, Texas is implementing a number of new procedures to stop the possible transmission of coronavirus, including social distancing practices, the wearing of face masks, body-temperature screening, health screening questions, limited job rotations, and new cleaning procedures.
General Motors’ Arlington plant implemented these new process in late March, and so far, workers there have been healthy. Although GM announced it was idling North American production operations in March, the Arlington facility did not shut down until early April, producing the previous-generation Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs with workers operating on a paid-volunteer basis.
Afterwards, the plant was shuttered for retooling as General Motors prepared to begin production of the next-generation 2021 model year vehicles.
With some states’ stay-at-home orders expected to lift this month, a number of workers will soon be recalled. However, there are concerns that some of the new measures will not be properly implemented, as demonstrated at the Arlington facility, where the layout reportedly does not allow for proper social distancing practices in certain locations.
“They have a new body shop and a new paint shop, so in those areas it’s more spacious,” said one Arlington assembly line worker, who spoke to Detroit Free Press on the condition of anonymity. “But in the trim and chassis area, there’s no way you can do six feet. The jobs are so close in proximity and you’re walking back and forth in front of each other.”
According to the head of General Motors North American manufacturing workplace safety, Kent Eaton, the biggest challenges are when employees aren’t working. “Human beings tend to come together. If the line went down for a few minutes, we’d find six or eight people who work 30 or 40 feet from each other, come together. Or I’d watch people in the parking lot congregate.” To address this, GM will provide direct mailings, social media, and on-the-job training when the factories are once again operational.
For now, there’s no firm date as to when GM production operations will resume at their original full capacity.