Vauxhall, one of Britain’s largest car manufacturers are making plans to restart production after successfully put in place safety measures in line with the Coronavirus pandemic. As the government is coming under pressure to outline its strategy for reintroducing new sectors of the economy out of lockdown, this is a welcome return.
Stephen Norman the Managing Director, has said that 800 of 1,600 staff have returned to the factory. This has happened on the same day that Ford has re-opened its engine plant in Wales.
Mr Norman has stated that Vauxhall is going to go beyond the guideline set by the government to ensure the safety of their staff.
The measures that have been introduced include:
- Each member of staff is required to keep a two-week diary of their temperature prior the returning. There is also a compulsory temperature check at the factory gates.
- All workers will be expected to wear face masks and eye protection their entire shift, the masks will be changed twice a day.
- The shift patterns will be rescheduled to help prevent overcrowding at exits and entrances, different functions will be assigned to separate gates.
- Access to shared facilities such as lockers and changing rooms will be controlled to maintain distancing, there will be one-way systems where possible in toilets.
- Hand dryers are to be replaced with paper towels
- Ant doors will be wedged open to help reduce contact, and toilets will be cleaned every hour.
- Any kitchen facilities will be closed.
- All break areas have been moved to enclosed spaces that enable two-meter distancing.
Mr Norman also said that there were 150 production operations previously requiring less than two-metre distancing, these have now been reduced to "less than 50" and in those cases "we provide extra PPE".
The government is carefully balancing its desire for people to stay in work, limiting the economic damage that lockdown is causing, and against the concerns that many workers have about how easing the restriction could allow the virus to spread.
Vauxhall called on the government to re-open car showrooms earlier than June if possible, Mr Norman said: “Vauxhall will be able to bring more workers back when car showrooms re-open in the UK”. And as June fast approaches, June still stands as the Governments set date for this to happen.
Vauxhall’s parent company, employees around 5,500 people in the UK, currently a huge ninety percent of these are in the government's furlough scheme, which is also changing. Their Ellesmere Port plant, which makes cars, still remains closed.
Mr Norman has reported that the company has lost ninety-five percent of its market because of the lockdown. Saying: "No company could survive that without the furlough arrangements and this re-start itself.
"We must not forget the human element of this. The motor industry is a gregarious place. People don't join it to isolate themselves."
With the well thought through protection for their staff, Vauxhall have been able to get back up and running and the company also seeks to reopen its factory at Ellesmere Port, in the Wirral as soon as possible.