GM’s head of global manufacturing, Gerald Johnson, told Reuters this week that masks have been the key to preventing outbreaks of COVID-19 at its assembly plants this year. While some GM assembly workers have tested positive for the potentially deadly virus, the masks have helped the automaker avoid any major outbreaks.
GM published a 40-page COVID-19 handbook earlier this year, which outlined the various ways it planned to protect workers within its assembly plants. Hourly GM plant workers must pass through a temperature screening when they arrive at work and complete a short COVID-19 symptoms questionnaire before they are able to enter the shop floor. When working, they are required to wear a face mask and exercise physical distancing from their co-workers when possible. Work stations and employee common areas are also frequently sanitized, including between shift rotations.
“We are confident in our multi-layered approach to COVID-19 safety, which has proven effective in preventing workplace transmission of COVID-19 in our facilities,” GM spokesman Dan Flores told Reuters this week.
Masks are the key to curbing the spread of the virus, but UAW president Rory Gamble says getting workers to wear them is still a bit of a challenge.
“The biggest complaint is wearing a mask,” Gamble told Reuters. “A lot of our members perform physical tasks. Wearing the mask inhibits breathing.”
Employees who suspect they have COVID-19 are advised to get in contact with their supervisor, GM Medical and their own physician. The automaker is also providing workers are forced to quarantine with up to 14 days of pay, helping to offset any wages they may lose for reporting the illness.
While GM has yet to experience any major outbreaks of COVID-19, the virus is still having a negative impact on its production output. The automaker is still experiencing a high degree of worker absenteeism due to the ongoing pandemic and has even had to put some of its white collar employees on the production line to help compensate.
While GM’s factories reopened earlier this year, its white collar employees who are able to work from home are expected to do so until well into 2021.