Social Distancing and Employee Safety in Manufacturing
Manufacturers around the globe are universally facing the same challenges of a new reality because of Covid-19. Not only are they challenged to maintain some sort of regular operations to meet consumer demand, but they are faced with employee health and safety issues never experienced before. Where do you go from here and what solutions are available to address the need for social distancing in a manufacturing environment?
Automation is certainly on the upswing, but this is not an overnight transformation. It makes complete sense to initiate projects that can bring automation to a plant. Facilities that have invested in Industrial Internet of Things are realizing the benefits. Productivity can be improved without the hassle of two-way radios, multiple spreadsheets and logbooks. Safety at the yard and loading dock can be enhanced with real-time communication and interlocking smart equipment. From a longer-term perspective, it allows decision makers to analyze trends, correlate them with historical data, identify opportunities and, ultimately, implement continuous improvement and behavior modification programs. These data-informed initiatives can enhance energy efficiency, work flow, process and maintenance programs, as well as safety – all of which impact an organization’s bottom line.
In today's changing landscape for logistics warehouse operations, the ability to evolve is more important than ever. Now is the time to recognize the positive impact of dock and yard management software and IIoT can have on logistics operations and invest in this cutting-edge technology.
Large portions of existing logistics and manufacturing facilities now need to be reimagined. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, 53% of manufacturers anticipate a change in operations due to Covid-19. Companies need to pay particular attention to the material transfer zone and provide for greater separation and segmentation as well as enhanced hygiene and cleanliness requirements.
Social Distancing Readiness in Operational Design:
- Critical separation of transport drivers and material transfer personnel
- Reducing external boundary exposure
- Providing new interior separation
- Deploying better operational oversight, surveillance systems and processes
Existing OSHA standards may apply to protecting workers from exposure and infection. Consider the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” See: www.osha.gov/laws-regs/oshact/completeoshact.
Environmental Control and Separation at the Loading Dock
At loading docks around the world, truck drivers have been opening swing doors in the drive approach before backing up to the building for forever. In today’s new world, exposing the contents of a truck to the external environment like this seems unsafe and opens you up to possible contamination. There is loading dock equipment, specifically designed to address this situation. A Vertical Storing Loading Dock Leveler, Dock Shelter and Vehicle Restraint along with integrated Dock Controls puts a company in the driver’s seat when it comes to safeguarding product and employees and provides better physical boundary control. Take it a step further by installing permanent or sliding partitions or enclosing the loading dock area with curtain enclosures.
Environmental Control and Separation Inside the Plant or Warehouse
We are seeing that physical barriers, whether in the form of Personal Protective Equipment or sneeze guards are in high demand. The needs of a manufacturing environment present different and bigger challenges. The products once thought of as a way to segment work processes or keep moving machines and people apart are also a solution for employee separation during the work day. Industrial curtain walls are a flexible and customizable way to separate works spaces, help control air particulates, and create external visitor entry points and more. Specifically, Zoneworks® EZ Employee Separation Barriers are a new way to address airborne particulate safety in your facility when standard 6 feet social distancing space is not available. Another option inside the facility is to integrate high speed doors with curtain walls for controlled access to these areas and you can start to see how distancing can be achieved.
Safety barriers have long been the standard for separating and protecting people from material handling equipment and production areas. While that remains to be true, barriers can also be used to create work spaces, break areas or any other space that requires maintaining distances between people. At the loading dock and inside the plant, separation means protection. Installing warehouse guard rails provides a true physical barrier, and they are available in a variety of materials and accessibility options.
Employees want to work, make a living and support their families. But they also want to be safe at their jobs. Covid-19 has now added a whole new dimension of health concerns and companies are faced with finding new ways to address this.