Reopening Tennessee: Volkswagen Chattanooga to resume production Sunday with phased approach

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WATE) —  Volkswagen Chattanooga on Wednesday announced plans to resume production Sunday using a multi-phased approach; with more than 90 new health and safety measures after voluntarily suspending operations in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In late April, plant officials had announced an extension of its shutdown in order to further assess the situation, including market demand, the status of the outbreak and the readiness of the supplier base.

With a restart date of Sunday, there are some new measures that will be occurring. The gradual ramp-up, Volkswagen officials say, will help ensure a reliable supply base while providing workers with time to adapt to the new procedures and preventative measures.

The new health and safety measures were also shared by Volkswagen Chattanooga, which follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with Gov. Bill Lee’s Tennessee Pledge. These new measures include:

·            Temperature scanning: everyone entering the plant will undergo touch-free temperature checks, administered by trained personnel using clinical-grade devices. No one with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be permitted inside the facility.

·            Masks and cloth face coverings: a new face mask will be provided to employees and contractors each day. Face masks or cloth coverings will be mandatory at all times except when eating or drinking, or when alone in isolated areas.

·            Sanitizer stations: installed throughout the factory in common walkways, at work stations, in break areas, near all kiosks and vending machines, and in cafeterias.

·            Gloves: available to all employees and contractors, but not mandatory.

·            Cleaning and disinfecting frequency: added more staff to the cleaning crew to increase disinfection and sanitation activities throughout the factory during both day and night shifts, using EPA-approved disinfectants.

·            Limited touch points: doors are propped open throughout the factory to limit touchpoints. All ice machines are closed.

·            Air circulation: increased the amount of fresh air inside the factory.

·            Visitor policy: no visitors will be permitted inside the factory.

·            Coordination with suppliers: Volkswagen has been working closely with suppliers, who are required to follow the same health and safety protocols as Volkswagen to help ensure all parts entering the plant are prepared in a responsible way.

·            Reminders: throughout the factory, digital and printed signs remind workers of new safety procedures, helpful health information and CDC guidelines. All employees and contractors are asked to perform self-health checks before coming to work, and to contact the on-site medical team if they are ill.

Social distancing measures include:

·            Stanchions and signage: to clearly indicate and encourage six-foot separation.

·            Staggered shift start times: to reduce the flow of employees arriving and departing work.

·            Staggered lunch, break times: to reduce the amount of people in the cafeteria and break areas.

·            Production processes: adjusted workstations and procedures to increase the amount of space between workers.

·            Capacity restrictions: limiting the number of persons who can enter common areas, such as meeting rooms, restrooms and team-wear store; the fitness center and Volkswagen Academy are closed.

·            Updated event, training policy: gatherings of 10 people or more are restricted. All classroom trainings are suspended or transferred to virtual settings.

·            Shuttle suspension: to minimize crowding and maximize social distancing.

·            Reconfigurations: new seating arrangements in break areas, cafeterias and meeting rooms to increase the distance between workers.

·            Partitions: in all break areas as well as work areas where a six-foot distance is not easily achieved, tall corrugated-plastic partitions have been installed. Barricades have been installed in the Conference Center for temperature check queuing, as well as on the bridge entering the factory.

·            Remote work: to limit the number of people in the factory at one time, salaried and support employees able to telework will continue to do so.

·            Reminders: six-foot distance indicators are installed in common walkways and the Conference Center. Throughout the factory, digital and printed signage reminds workers of social distancing.

Employees and contractors have received a handbook with an overview of the new procedures so that they may familiarize themselves before returning to work, Volkswagen officials said.

This week, employees and contractors will participate in virtual training to further enhance awareness.

Volkswagen said it will continue to monitor the situation and evaluate its processes, “keeping the health and well-being of everyone at Volkswagen Chattanooga as top priority.”

The new enhanced safety measures will continue until conditions allow for return to regular work and cleaning processes.

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