Erie County may not be ready to reopen just yet, but GM’s Tonawanda Engine plant is gearing up to start bringing workers back. The facility shut down nearly two months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.
General Motors plans to resume production in phases, starting May 18, by calling back a single shift of workers at its River Road facility in Tonawanda and its other plants around the country.
On a conference call Monday, GM corporate Medical Director Dr. Jeffery Hess said before returning to work all employees will get a temperature scan and orientation on the company’s new safety protocols including physical distancing, wearing a mask, and hand sanitizing.
“There’s lots of parts that we’re handling throughout the process of manufacturing our vehicles and parts get touched many times. And while we realize that is a risk, we really stress to our employees hand washing again before eating, drinking or smoking is the best protection measure we can give them, rather than trying to sanitize parts after every time somebody touches it,” Hess said.
Hess said work areas, door handles, and other high touch points will also be sanitized frequently. If an employee arrives at work with a temperature or they have symptoms they’re concerned about, GM will offer COVID-19 testing.
“We’re also looking at doing testing to validate individuals who are coming back to the workplace after having the disease to make sure they’re not bringing in to the workplace and make sure they’re disease-free before they come back in,” Hess said.
He said the company will also be doing contact tracing for any employee who comes down with the disease.
GM’s Lockport components plant resumed limited operations last week. Ford is also planning to resume limited production at its facilities nationwide, including its Woodlawn Stamping Plant, on Monday.