General Motors plants started to come back online this week and the vast majority of its U.S. facilities will be up and running before the end of the month. GM is confident it will be able to keep its global workforce safe from COVID-19 by implementing a number of new safety protocols, which it outlined in a 40-page document sent to its employees last week.
With some expressing concern that companies like GM and Ford are sending employees back to work too early, we figured we would go over the General Motors COVID-19 handbook and explain exactly what the automaker is telling its U.S. and Canadian workforces with regard to COVID-19 pandemic.
In the opening chapter of the document (which is available to read at this link), GM’s corporate medical director, Dr. Jeffrey E. Hess, explains how the virus is transmitted and gives workers basic guidelines against protecting themselves from contracting COVID-19, explaining it is “spread mainly by direct airborne droplets produced when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes.” The documents also points out that “when in close proximity (within six feet/two meters) without a face mask, droplets may land in your mouth, nose, or be inhaled into the lungs and cause infection,” and recommends that “the best protection measure is to wash or sanitize your hands before eating, drinking, smoking or touching your face.”
The General Motors COVID-19 playbook then turns to focus on an actual workday, advising workers keep their physical distance when entering the building, go through a temperature screening, put on a face mask and other PPE and answer a short COVID-19 questionnaire. Once inside the building, workers will clean their workstations in at the start and end of their shifts.
“You will be asked to clean your workstation at the beginning of every shift/workday,” the document says. “The frequency of cleaning of these areas may vary based on your site. Supplies and instructions will be provided. As part of enhanced cleaning protocols for your work area, you may need to use additional approved chemicals, wear additional PPE and follow specific instructions.”
Social distancing, the most difficult measure to implement in automotive assembly plants, is also addressed in the document, advising the following:
- With regard to physical distancing, largely thought to be the most difficult part of bringing vehicle production lines back, the document advises workers to do the following:
- Stay at least six feet (two meters) from others when possible
- Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings
- Utilize Skype meetings whenever possible
- Do not exceed 50 percent of the maximum capacity for multipurpose spaces or large conference rooms
- Follow restrictions on how many people can use an elevator at a time, and limit the number of people permitted to sit at a table
GM workers are also advised to open doors by using their “hip, shoulder or elbow,” instead of their hands and to use a paper towel or wipe if they have to turn a handle.
Lastly, the document advises workers to take their temperature if they are feeling unwell and to not come to work “if it is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.” Employees who suspect they may have COVID-19 should contact their supervisor, contact GM Medical and contact their physician. GM is provided workers who are forced to quarantine with up to 14 days of pay.
With the General Motors COVID-19 playbook in hand, the automaker is bringing its plants online slowly and starting with only limited shift rotation at most facilities, but plans to be back up and running at full capacity by mid-to-late June.