Q&A covid-19

Case study: managing the return to work

Paul Staines, senior controller in production engineering at automotive manufacturer Unipres, shares insights into how his workplace is handling the transition back to work.

How is your plant planning to facilitate social distancing and safe working?

Paul Staines: "On the initial return to work all staff received a presentation on the new protocols outlining what is expected of them to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Supervisors and team leaders received separate training for enforcing social distancing, how to spot the symptoms, and most importantly what protocol is to be followed if someone were to have symptoms on site.

Starting times were staggered to mitigate large gatherings when entering the plant, as temperatures of all staff are taken on entering the building. We also staggered the break times to enable staff to maintain social distancing in all restrooms in the plant. Again, each restroom had staff allocated ensuring maximum occupancy was not reached.

Every single piece of machinery or rest room appliance was risk-assessed and a disinfection standard was created so all users were trained to disinfect said machine or frequently touched surface before and after use. The entire plant has been decorated with our ‘Clean It’ campaign reminding staff of the new protocols, and to assist supervision to observe the standards are being met."

Do you have a phased plan for bringing staff back to the workplace?

Paul Staines: "When the pandemic seriously impacted the UK and most workers were placed on furlough, we immediately assessed what impact the virus could have on our industry and in our factory in particular. We began to evaluate the risk in every element of the plant.

The first noticeable change was the provision of hand sanitiser distributed throughout the plant. Each management team from each department then began to risk-assess operations from staff entering the site to carrying out their daily work. On entering the plant, we marked the pavement with two-meter markers on the floor, these markers where put in place as a visual aid to maintain distancing when entering the plant.

Meeting rooms were carefully measured to see how many people could safely occupy a room and maximum occupancy signage placed in the room. Chairs have been removed to further enforce this measure.

For any activity where social distancing could not be maintained, we used measures such as personal protective equipment and back-to-back working for a maximum of 15 minutes."

How do you support employees who are anxious about returning to work?

Paul Staines: "Unipres offers support through a service provided by an organisation called Talk Works. The mental health service is available to all Unipres UK employees, offering ongoing stress guidance, counselling, and expert advice to employees and staff who are struggling with mental health issues.

Talking therapies allow employees to talk about their life or worries to someone who is trained to listen and help. The service is 100% confidential and free, and so far employees who have used the service have found it very beneficial."

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