how to keep your factory in a safe/healthy mode

Content summary

Purpose and first steps

We at PackIOT have recently heard comments from customers, partners and industry professionals who are having a hard time setting up their facilities to become safer for workers. Therefore, we have decided to publish this free guide, written in collaboration with several packing plant managers in Europe.

As you may imagine (or be experiencing), some industries do not stop at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of them work with vital areas for the fight against and prevention of the virus, such as the production of packaging for sanitisers, medical equipment and personal protection items.

Our goal with this guide is to help you keep your operation running safely by taking care of the health and well-being of employees, their families, suppliers and partners.

We really hope that the suggestions can be useful in your company’s daily routine. The material will be divided into two parts. The first one brings the actual account of an industrial manager in a packaging company in Europe. He wrote down the actions taken to keep the company operating safely. And we share it with you here. By his choice, the entire article will be anonymous. 

The second part is a FAQ based on conversations with other industrial directors as well as materials referenced by the World Health Organization, the Government of California (USA) and the European Carton Makers Association (EMCA).

Feel free to share with your partners, customers, employees and friends.The content is really to be sent to those who need it most. 

Personal testimony of an industrial manager. How to face it*

"The pandemic has arrived in my country and maybe it's already in my factory...sneaky and highly contagious! Pandemic! Now what? What are the emergency actions that I have to take to minimize the possibilities of contamination inside the factory and ensure the health of my employees? First of all, I have to stay calm.My positive inner attitude is very important in my leadership position in the factory. A calm, positive and determined leader has a significant impact on improving the corporate environment in times of crisis.

*The industrial director made the text anonymous in order to collaborate with other (a) colleagues around the world.

4 crucial points to start with

1 - Make my team of leaders a task force

2-Implement or expand hygiene management actions at workplace

3-Reorganize the flow of employees within the plant

4 - Ensure the stability of the processes and the financial health of the company

From overnight, the company's leaders are no longer just leaders and become key players in the development of an emergency plan that can save lives and the future of the company.

These leaders (human resources, marketing, controlling, plant management, quality and top level management) are coordinated by the factory's task force, which is aligned with the management of the holding, which we are part of.

The task force and the other plant leaders immediately initiate face-to-face communication with employees, clarifying the actions we choose to take promptly:

– Distance between employees of at least 1.5 meters

– Hand washing often with soap and water for at least 30 seconds

– Frequent use of hand sanitizer.

– A staff member is defined to clean door handles, table surfaces and some machines – every day

– Machine operators receive spray sanitizers to regularly clean the panels and tools

– Closure of cafeteria and automatic coffee, beverage and snack machines

– Social interaction zones are prohibited for use, as well as any kind of agglomeration

– Showers in the locker rooms are forbidden. Bathrooms are disinfected once a shift

– In case of the appearance of symptoms of the disease, the employee must first notify the company.  Each case will be treated separately by the task force.

– If the symptoms are felt during work, report directly to the superior

– Immediate ban on business trips and company meetings (only virtually are allowed)

– Cancellations of any kind of factory visits

Posters relating to the actions described above are fixed throughout the plant. We place disinfectants for hands at additional points.

The central role of the Operations and Back Office Departments

In the meantime, human resources and marketing leaders are working on a new concept of remote work for the customer care, pre-press and product technology areas. The goal is first of all to enable home-based work for the maximum number of employees. In this case we have to make exceptions and enable employees to take home the PCs that would normally have to stay in the office. The implementation of this action should be a priority.

For the other roles in the company, where remote work is not possible, we follow another strategy. The development of multidisciplinary teams that can act as backup in case one of the teams goes into quarantine. I am still referring to the administrative processes whose outputs feed the machines and keep production active. In this case, we turned meeting rooms into offices and physically separate these teams.

Additionally, we have forbidden any contact between these employees. The procurement department is tasked with cancelling all supplier visits to our factory. All service providers such as logistics, mail, etc. are not allowed to enter. In the interim, the plant manager has already implemented the new shift system, in which the start and end of each shift are not intersected. The factory floor employees are trained to fully avoid contact with the other shifts during the changeover. The same situation is now valid for time in the changing rooms, machines and work breaks. In this way, the backup system of the teams in production can be guaranteed. So far, two days have passed. The offices are empty, production is running as planned with all shifts.

The strategy in production is to continue with the normal rhythm while the resources are still available in the market. Even with the number of cases being well above average, we have managed to maintain most of the shifts so far. Every new day the production strategy will be reviewed by the task force and new measures will be taken. The task force is also dealing with possible future scenarios for the plant. The worst case would be the quarantine of the factory because of infections. A more realistic scenario would be localized quarantine of certain areas. What awaits us in the coming weeks is difficult to calculate. It is a new situation for everyone".

10 sets of actions to implement right now

The second part of our guide is an overview of practical efforts to implement right now. They are based on reports from industrial managers in Europe, in addition to content from WHO, the California Government and EMCA.
The health and safety requirements of any activity should not be compromised at this time either. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to the lack of suitably qualified personnel available or the social distancing that is being implemented, it should not be undertaken, EMCA points out.

1. General Measures

  • No non-essential physical work requiring close contact between workers should be performed
  • Plan all other work to minimize contact between workers
  • Reusable PPE must be carefully cleaned after use and not shared between workers
  • Single-use PPE must be disposed of in such a way that it cannot be re-used
  • Stairs should be used instead of elevators
  • Where lifts should be used try to limit their total load capacity to reduce traffic and touching at any time
  • Regularly clean contact points (doors, buttons, panels surfaces)
  • Increase ventilation in enclosed spaces
  • Try to clean the interior of the vehicle cabs regularly and in between uses by different operators.
  • Garbage removal and bin storage points should be increased and cans emptied regularly throughout and at the end of each day.

2. Self-isolation

Any person who meets one of the following criteria should not go to the factory (or workplace, such as offices or maintenance facilities):

  • Has a high temperature (over 38 degrees) or a new persistent cough.
  • You are vulnerable person (because of your age, health condition, medical condition or are pregnant. Check more on the WHO website)
  • You live with someone in self-isolation or a vulnerable person.
  • Those are the initial measures. As directed by the World Health Organization, it is essential to follow these guidelines. 

2. Procedure if Someone gets Sick

If a worker develops a high temperature or a persistent cough during work, he should as soon as possible:

  • Report the fact to the internal management committee or plant leadership
    Go back home
    Avoid touching objects at all costs
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a box (or bag) separate from the litter. If there are no tissues, cough and sneeze into the elbow curve.

Then follow the self-isolation guidelines and do not return to work until your self-isolation period has been completed.

3. Journey to the factory

Wherever possible, workers should commute alone to the workplace. And companies may follow the following guidelines.

  • Offer or recommend a safe shuttle system (company buses with proper hygiene, cleanliness)
  • Provide parking for additional cars and bikes
  • Encourage other means of transport to avoid public transport, e.g. cycling (where possible and respecting the safety of all)
  • Provide hand cleaning facilities at entrances and exits.
  • Have a contingency plan to support the displacement in case someone gets sick.

4. Visitors at the factory

  • Reduce as much as possible (or stop completely) non-essential visitor access
  • Introduce staggered start and end times to reduce congestion and physical contact
  • Monitoring access points to the site to allow social distance – it may be necessary to change the number of access points: for example increase them to reduce congestion or decrease them to allow monitoring
  • Remove or disable input systems that require skin contact, e.g. fingerprint scanners
  • Require all workers to wash or clean their hands before entering or leaving the site
  • Recommend spacing (two meters) between people waiting to enter the site
  • Regularly clean common contact surfaces at offices, access control and delivery areas: e.g. scanners, screens, telephones, desks especially during peak flow periods
  • Drivers shall remain in their vehicles if the materials of the load permit and shall wash their hands before unloading goods and materials.

5. Hand washing and toilets facilities

  • Provide additional hand washing facilities.
  • Ensure soap and water are readily available and always supplied
  • Provide hand sanitizer (disinfectant or solution with alcohol) when no hand washing facilities are available
  • Regularly clean hand washing premises and check levels of soap and disinfectant
  • Provide adequate and sufficient garbage bags for hand towels with regular removal and disposal.
  • Sanitary Premises
  • Restrict the number of people using the toilet facilities at any time
  • Wash your hands before and after using the facilities
  • Improve the cleaning schedules of toilets, especially door handles, locks and flushing facilities
  • Portable toilets should be avoided where possible, but where in use they should be cleaned and emptied more frequently
  • Provide adequate and sufficient waste bins for hand towels with regular removal and disposal.

6. Common Food Areas

  • Workers must remain on site once they have entered it. That is, avoid going out to get a drink or a quick snack in local shops near the factory
  • Break times should be staggered to reduce flow and physical contact
  • Hand cleaning facilities should be available at the entrance of any room where people eat, with recommended use when entering and exiting.
  • Workers should be asked to bring pre-prepared meals and refillable drink bottles from home
  • Workers should sit within 2 meters of each other while eating and avoid any contact
  • When food is supplied on site, it should only provide pre-prepared and packaged food
  • All garbage should be placed directly in the destined bag and not left for someone else to clean.
  • All areas used for eating should be carefully cleaned at the end of each break (and/or shift), including chairs, door handles, vending machines and payment devices.

8. Showers and Dressing rooms

  • Establish staggered start and end times to reduce congestion and physical contact
  • Reinforce greater cleaning of all facilities during the course of the day and at the end of each working day
  • Consider increasing the number or size of facilities available on site, if possible
  • Based on the size of each premises, set how many people can use it at any one time to maintain a distance of two meters
  • Provide adequate and sufficient waste bins in these areas with regular removal and disposal.

9. Face-to-face meetings (within factory premises)

  • Only those participants who are absolutely necessary should attend the face meetings
  • Participants must be separated from each other by two meters
  • Rooms should be well ventilated ( windows open) to allow fresh air to circulate
  • Consider holding meetings in open areas whenever possible.

10. General cleaning and trash removal.

  • Improved cleaning procedures need to be implemented throughout the facility, particularly in common areas and at contact points, including:
  • Taps and washing facilities
  • Bathroom and seats
  • Door handles
  • Handrails in stairways and corridors
  • Lifting Controls
  • Machine and equipment controls
  • Food preparation surfaces
    Phones, Smartphones, keyboards, touchpads, copiers and other office equipment