With some modest changes, the auto industry expects to continue the health and safety protocols, including faces masks, put in place at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic indefinitely.
“After reviewing reports from health and medical experts, the COVID-19 Joint Task Force, comprised of the UAW, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, has agreed to continue most COVID-19 workplace protocols out of an abundance of caution,” a statement from the United Auto Workers said.
The protocols include requiring employees to continue using masks, face shields and safety glasses inside all three automakers manufacturing plants, the union said. Social distancing and hand washing also will continue “out of an abundance of caution,” the statement added.
The UAW, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis will also continue to comply with all state, county, and city regulations where they operate facilities and offices, according to the task force that includes UAW President Rory Gamble and top executives from all three Detroit-area automakers.
COVID task force created a year ago
The auto industry COVID-19 Task Force, which was created in March 2020 as the pandemic gained momentum across the country, met this week and reviewed reports of medical experts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to maintain safety and uniformity as the companies continue to work through the pandemic.
The UAW and the companies will continue to follow the protocols that, by and large, have kept employees safe, the statement added.
Auto companies confirmed some employees have died from COVID-19. But the companies have said the deaths have not involved any known cases where the virus was contracted within in workplaces covered by the rules put in place in March 2020.
Virus acquired outside of work sites
The deaths that did occur among employees involved contact outside of work, the group said.
Employees caught the virus, which has killed an estimated 600,000 Americans, as they interacted with friends and family or other people in their local community, company and union officials reported.
The union and all three companies continue to encourage employees to get vaccinated, but they are not requiring the vaccinations as a condition of reporting for work. However, there will be some changes to the protocols, which have been in place for more than a year, the statement approved by the company and the union said.
Monitored temperature screening upon facility entry is expected to be phased out along with other minor adjustments to entry and exit procedures, which have limited door employees as they entered or left the plant.
Workstation cleaning will continue in accordance with CDC guidelines. Each company will provide additional communication to employees on the protocols and the timing regarding any modifications, the statement said.