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June 11, 2020 | Covid-19 | Posted by Ascentis

The Business Impact that Workplace Safety Has on Manufacturers

It’s the current nightmare scenario for any manufacturing employer: a worker in your facility tests positive for COVID-19 after several days of reporting to work without revealing, or possibly even recognizing, their symptoms. Suddenly the health and safety of the rest of your workforce is at risk. Workers need to be tested. Production needs to shut down while surfaces and workspaces are disinfected. A ripple effect is triggered as customers and businesses along your supply chain are left waiting.

While outbreaks in food processing facilities have garnered more headlines, recent months have seen variations on this scenario play out for manufacturers around the country, from automakers in Detroit to a glass factory in Minnesota to a window and door fabricator in North Carolina. Even for a manufacturer that stays mindful of social distancing and other recommended guidelines, the physical realities of many manufacturing facilities can make it difficult to stop the spread once it has gotten in the door. The risks of letting sick workers go undetected in a manufacturing facility touch on nearly every facet of your operation.

To begin with, employers have a responsibility to safeguard their employees’ health in the workplace as much as possible. Not only is that the right thing to do ethically, protecting employee health is also a sound financial move. Business experts estimate that, even before the COVID pandemic, workplace illnesses cost American employers $576 billion per year. Around $227 billion of that total stems from reporting to work despite being too sick to perform their jobs well. Looking ahead to the post-COVID landscape, a business that earns a reputation for not protecting workers in a time of crisis will likely have a difficult time recruiting quality hires in the future.

The overall costs of shutting down production, even briefly, are also considerable. Guidelines for manufacturers provided by the Centers for Disease Control currently suggest that any areas of a facility that have been used by a sick employee should be shut down immediately, and that the employer should wait at least 24 hours before beginning the cleaning and disinfecting process. Assuming that cleaning an affected area, including any equipment or common areas the sick employee may have used, will take at least another workday, that adds up to at least two days of lost productivity for their section. Add to that the potential for late fines and penalties from vendors in your supply chain, and an undetected sickness can become very costly very quickly.

Yet another risk for manufacturers is the potential for lawsuits. While it is too early in the pandemic to know how the courts will interpret employers’ liability for workplace COVID-19 infections, the issue is expected to be a major point of contention in the coming months. Illinois has already attempted to implement legislation increasing employers’ responsibility for protecting their employees against on-the-job infection, and the topic is an ongoing source of debate in the U.S. Congress. Regardless of how much liability employers are ultimately assigned, it is much safer for manufacturers to think proactively than take a chance on being sued for a preventable COVID outbreak.

Many technological products to help employers stem the spread of coronavirus have emerged in the past months, to varying degrees of effectiveness. While many of the most visible items on the market address one or two aspects of prevention, this situation requires a broad-ranging, holistic approach. Manufacturers should look for solutions that provide:

  • Point of entry temperature scanning

    Touch-free temperature readings with real-time pass or fail results help to identify workers with elevated temperatures before they enter the workplace and subject co-workers to possible infection.

  • Voice-controlled time and attendance

    Voice-operated software goes a step beyond even facial recognition solutions, allowing employees to interact with essential clock-in and clock-out functions without removing face masks or other personal protective equipment.

  • Real-time employee tracking

    Using Bluetooth beacon technology to pinpoint employees’ locations within your facility helps to enforce crucial social distancing standards, and also makes contact tracing easier if an outbreak does occur.

The way the manufacturing industry deals with the spread of COVID-19 is constantly evolving. While future outbreaks are a virtual certainty, getting out in front of the problem with consistent policies, continuing education, and state-of-the-industry technology can go a long way toward protecting your workers, avoiding costly shutdowns, and improving your bottom line.

Learn more about the ways the groundbreaking Ascentis CarePoint time clock technology can help the manufacturing industry defend against the spread of coronavirus.