During the coronavirus pandemic, the global supply chain is experiencing a level of disruption that has never been seen before. Some manufacturers have ceased production completely, some have seen greatly reduced demand and others have seen a huge increase in demand. Every manufacturer is impacted by this crisis in some way having to make difficult business decisions, including whether they can keep operating safely and within the social distancing rules.
Unlike shops and public spaces deemed ‘non-essential’, no restrictions have been put in place in respect of manufacturing businesses continuing to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the Secretary of State Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma MP, recently confirmed the important role manufacturing plays in the economy. He urged businesses to continue wherever possible if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines: but is that possible?
The practical realities of complying with the guidance published by Public Health England in respect of social distancing whilst maintaining good manufacturing practice, have left many in the sector with no choice but to cease production and close factories. However, this week several manufacturing businesses have announced plans to resume production, including Jaguar Land Rover, Keystone Group and Legal & General.
Businesses re-mobilising after a shut-down should take time to ensure factories and sites are safe, including standard practice checks in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Some practical tips for manufacturing and processing businesses, including government’s advice include:
– Staff should work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face if possible;
– Increasing the frequency of cleaning procedures, pausing production in the day if necessary for cleaning staff to wipe down workstations with disinfectant;
– Assign staff to the same shift teams to limit social interaction;
– Not allowing staff to congregate during break times – consider staggered break times so employees can continue to practice social distancing when taking breaks;
– Communicating to all staff the importance of washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more at the beginning and end of every break, when they arrive at work and before they leave. To help with this, you could install additional pop-up handwashing facilities or stations providing soap, water and/or hand sanitiser; and
– When entering and leaving, ensure your workforce stays 2 metres apart as much as possible. To protect your employees, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.
Our manufacturing specialists provide focussed legal advice to multiple manufacturing businesses, both regionally and internationally. The combination of our industry knowledge and sector-specific legal insight means we can work as an integral part of our clients’ business swiftly getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of key issues. Manufacturing team lead, Samantha East, is happy to discuss any issues you may face arising from this topic. Please do get in touch.