Essential manufacturers in Ohio leading the way for those set to reopen

Posted at 5:07 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 23:32:21-04

CLEVELAND — While the spread of a virus brought life to a screeching halt, many manufacturers never missed a beat.

"It's definitely a learning curve. Number one is their worker's safety," said Juliana Petti, Alliance for Working Together.

Those essential companies that stayed open quickly had to adjust how they operate.

"We have an older workforce, so I think that's a big health concern," said Petti.

There have been many changes to day-to-day operations, including staggering start times.

"When first shift is leaving and second shift is coming in there's not a lot of people in the parking lot or there's not a lot of people at the clock in," said Petti.

The layout of the workplace has also changed.

"Move some equipment, move some workspaces to make sure people are six feet apart," said Petti.

Those manufacturers that remained open are now sharing their best practices with those about to restart operations May 1.

"A lot of manufacturers are opening up their doors to make sure there's enough air flow. The goal is to keep everyone safe and everyone is trying to do that,” said Petti.

Even with new protocols in place, Ethan Karp with the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network said a lack of personal protective equipment is going to be an issue.

"Having those be available when we reopen is going to be absolutely critical when we reopen and that's why we need local supply chain on those items," said Karp.

Right now, Karp’s organization is working with a Northeast Ohio company to try and fill a glove shortage.

"People are digging out old formulations of something they did 50-years ago and saying we can do that again," said Karp.

Meantime, larger companies with an adequate amount of safety gear are stepping up to help.

"We've created a PPE exchange for manufacturers. A lot of manufacturers have implemented wearing face shields or face masks," said Petti.

As for whether new oversight is needed to make sure employees stay safe, Juscelino Colares, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said it is impossible for the federal government to create new COVID-19 regulations for companies.

"They know their plants better than any government could know in a short period of time. There are going to be potential problems here and there," said Colares.

However, Lt. Governor Jon Husted on Wednesday reminded businesses they have to comply with all state regulations in order to re-open.

"Businesses have to follow it. And yes, employees, if they feel like they're not safe, then they can contact the health department. The health department will be able to enforce those guidelines. They should feel very comfortable calling the health department and making sure that that happens,” said Husted.

At the end of the day, Karp said it's in each company's best interest to keep their employees safe.

"So far, we have had a lot of essential manufacturers already keeping open and they're doing just fine. We don't see a rapid spread of COVID happening right now," said Karp.

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