by Bill P.
FCA’s multilayered new policy to ensure employees are protected from COVID-19 will be a success or cautionary tale.
Fiat Chrysler, the owner of Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Maserati restarted production at their North American facilities yesterday, May 18, under strict new safety protocols aimed at preventing staff from transmitting COVID-19. The new multilayered protection includes cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, implementing Plexiglas to separate work and seating areas and requiring all staff to submit a temperature check before coming to work.
Since closing their plants in the U.S. Mexico and Canada on March 18, FCA has been working to put in place best practices that have enabled the restart of operations at its facilities in China and Italy. Aligned with World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendations, these robust protocols, along with the actions employees will be required to take to safeguard themselves and others, were communicated as part of a Return to Work package mailed to nearly 47,000 U.S. and Canadian represented employees. Mexico will share the same information through in-person training.
Check out COO – Touring the upgrades to an FCA Facility recently
“We have drawn on our collective global expertise and best practices to rethink our production processes to put in place comprehensive protocols to keep our workforce safe,” FCA CEO Mike Manley said. “There is no question that coming to work will look and feel different. Above everything else, our top priority has always been to do what is right for our employees.” Protocols were developed with unions to ensure all employees feel safe returning to work.
FCA has one of the strictest policies in place requiring employees and visitors to wear masks and gloves and do a daily risk assessment where they must take their temperature two hours before returning to work or submit before entering the building. They must also complete a self-screening questionnaire. Visitors and contractors to any FCA facility will be required to provide their own personal protection equipment. FCA is also installing thermal imaging cameras to verify what employees and visitors have self-reported.
During the production pause, FCA completed a significant number of cleaning and social distancing activities to prepare its facilities for when operations resume. These include:
- Cleaning and Disinfecting
- More than 57 million square feet of manufacturing floor space cleaned and disinfected
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting schedules developed for common and high traffic areas, including turnstiles, restrooms, cafeterias, locker rooms and conference rooms
- 135 hand-held foggers distributed for more efficient cleaning of these areas
- Provided cleaning supplies at all workstations so surfaces can be cleaned and disinfected
- Installed more than 2,000 hand sanitizer stations across all facilities
- Daily audits to be conducted to ensure new standards are followed
- Social Distancing
- More than 17,000 workstations analyzed and evaluated for adherence to six-foot social distancing guidelines
- More than 4,700 job areas and workstations redesigned or protective barriers installed to allow for more social distancing
- Installed plexiglass partitions and created visual management guides for social distancing in break areas and cafeterias, as well as throughout all buildings
- Staggered start times and added time to breaks and lunch to minimize large gatherings
- Suspended meetings of more than eight employees at a time and transitioned to virtual meetings, wherever possible
- Put new approval protocols in place for facility visitors
While many other manufacturers have started production abroad, US automakers are still struggling to restart production and ensure the safety of their staff.
If infections rates across North American plants are kept very low, FCA’s model of placing dividers within work stations along with requiring a health screening and installing temperature scanners to ensure no one entering has a fever could be a workable model for other essential manufacturing industries where COVID-19 rates have soared.