We’re getting closer and closer to the day when Ford is finally able to operate again. The automaker has already announced that it will reopen its European plants on May 4th, and rumors suggest that U.S. plants will follow suit on May 18th. We also know that this process will involve a small number of employees at first, with the automaker ramping up production over time. And those workers will be subject to a series of new safety protocols designed to protect them from the spread of COVID-19. But on Thursday, Ford went into greater detail outlining the steps is has taken and is going to take to get itself back on track.
“We’ve been working intently on how to restart our operations and safely bring back our employees and we’re ready,” said Ford Motor Company chief operating officer, Jim Farley. “We have gone through and trialed these processes. We’re abiding by our first principles, and we are working with our union and government partners to restart. Getting back to work isn’t just good news for Ford employees. It’s also good news for our suppliers, car dealers and the ecosystems that provide services around them, like restaurants, shops and stores. This economic multiplier effect is going to help reboot communities around the globe.”
Work has already resumed at Ford facilities in China, and the automaker plans on expanding on the safety standards and precautions in place there and in the U.S. plants where medical equipment has been in production for weeks. The people building those medical supplies have been wearing face masks, face shields, and other personal protection equipment, as well as maintaining at least six feet of space from other workers wherever possible.
Ford already has started educating its global workforce on these new guidelines, which are outlined in a safety playbook that will be available for employees, along with personal protection and hygiene items like masks and sanitizer. A small number of hourly and salaried employees returned to work this week in North America to begin installing equipment and implementing these new safety protocols. However, the exact return-to work-dates for most hourly and salaried workers have not yet been determined nor announced.
Ford has partnered with a team of global medical experts, including an external epidemiologist and infectious disease experts, Ford’s Global Data Insight and Analytics team, and the UAW, in addition to employing best-practice recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, among others.
Together, those teams have come up with a series of new reopening safety protocols that include scheduling more time between shifts to limit interaction between employees and allowing additional cleaning. Workspaces have been modified where possible to allow for social distancing. And all Ford employees will receive personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn inside company facilities. Cafeterias, small meeting rooms, fitness centers, and other small common areas where social distancing is not possible will remain closed.
Additional safety protocols include:
- Daily online health self-certifications completed before work every day. Employees or visitors who indicate they may have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus will be told not to come to work.
- No-touch temperature scans upon arrival. Anyone with a raised temperature will not be permitted to enter and will be instructed to visit a physician to be cleared before returning to work.
- Required face masks for everyone entering a Ford facility. Every Ford team member will be provided a care kit including a face mask and other items to help keep them healthy and comfortable at work.
- Safety glasses with side shields or face shields as added requirements when jobs don’t allow for social distancing. Ford is evaluating workstations and work patterns and will implement other measures that protect workers whose jobs are typically performed within 6 feet of another person.
- Facilities that have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and will be cleaned with increased frequency when they reopen.
- Hand sanitation stations throughout Ford facilities and CDC signs with proper hand washing methods in all restrooms.
- A comprehensive playbook with procedures and protocols that detail how the Ford team will work together to help keep everyone safe and healthy.
“Science and data are driving Ford’s return to work, including close collaboration with experts in the field of infectious disease and epidemiology, to set safety standards we are confident will protect employees as they return to work,” said Dr. Walter Talamonti, corporate medical director at Ford. “The protocols we’ve established will require employees take multiple steps every day to make sure that they are safe, healthy and able to work.”
“These protocols are the result of weeks of working closely with our unions, especially the UAW, on assuring the health and safety of our Ford family while planning how to reopen our facilities,” added Gary Johnson, Ford chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer. “We have evidence that these protocols work and are already using them without a single issue to date in Ford plants where we are manufacturing ventilators and PPE for medical personnel.”
“We continue to work toward the safest protocols available for the safety of our members, their families and their communities,” said Gerald Kariem, UAW vice president and director of the UAW Ford Department. “Our biggest concern is the health and safety of our UAW membership. We are encouraged by the results thus far of the safety protocols being instituted at the plants making medical equipment and in plans to implement these safeguards when it is safe for our members to report for work. We also recognize that we all have a role in self-reporting any exposure without repercussions and in following through on implementing these protections.”
In addition to its plants, Ford is also assisting its dealers with the process of reopening their showrooms. The company is supplying all of its U.S. dealerships with PPE, such as masks and hand sanitizer, for both staff and customers. The automaker is producing some of this equipment and sourcing other items in bulk quantities to help expedite deliveries to dealers.
Given the high level of contagiousness of COVID-19 and the valid concerns of workers in these plants, it’s clear that Ford is taking every step necessary to place the safety of those workers above everything else. Meanwhile, the automaker is obviously using every resource at its disposal to ensure that reopening plants can be accomplished in the safest way possible.
We’ll continue following the topic of restarting Ford production closely and will report more soon, so be sure to subscribe to Ford Authority for the latest Ford-related COVID-19 news, Ford business news, and ongoing Ford news coverage.