How to make your factory COVID-secure

COVID-19 and manufacturing

The COVID-19 pandemic is a worldwide disruptive virus that has changed the way we live and work. Here in the UK, we’re entering another national lockdown to limit the number of Coronavirus cases. This is undoubtedly affecting all businesses as we speak. However, the manufacturing industry is not shutting down during the lockdown despite the difficulty in making this workplace COVID-secure due to its layout, resources, and quantity of staff. Consequently, manufacturers need to place an enormous focus on improving factory safety for the sake of their staff and production line. We have compiled several problems that you might experience in the workplace during COVID-19 and advised how you can solve them using Fitfactory’s Data Capture module.

Hygiene and cleanliness

One of the main opportunities for Coronavirus to spread is by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by a carrier. In a factory, this can be difficult to prevent, as workers are using several machines between teams. Additionally, workers do not have the opportunity to wash their hands regularly due to tight deadlines on the production line.

It’s vital that you minimise the risk of contracting the virus via touching surfaces by cleaning machinery regularly. However, you will waste time if this isn’t recorded accurately. As staff often cannot go to a sink to thoroughly wash their hands, hand sanitiser can serve as a COVID-secure step to ensure everyone is uncontaminated prior to touching machinery.

Paperless and Contactless

You may have noticed issues with using paper-based systems before the pandemic even began. Whilst it might have worked for you for a while, it is not the most effective approach. However, this will only become more frustrating when making your factory COVID-secure. In the event that you are audited on your efforts to become COVID-secure, and to reassure staff, it is important that you have evidence of steps that you are taking. This is often in the form of a COVID-19 Cleaning and Hygiene Daily Inspection. As you know, paper notes can easily be lost, resulting in no evidence that your factory is COVID-secure. However, moving over to a digital platform will eliminate this possibility. Every step can be solely recorded and found at the click of a button.

Social distancing and anxiety

To minimise the likelihood of droplets reaching others, social distancing has been implemented. Despite best intentions, this is often impossible in a factory, thereby increasing infection transmission. Reportedly, almost half of employees believe there is a high risk of transmission at work, despite managers’ efforts. Due to challenges with implementing social distancing, staff may become distressed as they worry how to stay safe. This could result in additional absences due to employees wanting to stay away from work. Consequently, this will hinder your productivity and heighten costs.

A COVID-19 Risk Assessment can inform staff regularly on the methods used to reduce the level of anxiety caused by COVID-19 transmission at work. Exceptional communication throughout the pandemic will ensure that employees are aware of what is happening. You could provide copies of documentation to prove the presence of additional measures. However, if these are provided on paper when an employee arrives at work, it may easily become misplaced. Additionally, some employees may be reluctant to handle paper due to the risk of transmission.

You could create fixed teams by introducing stricter shift patterns to minimise crossover. However, if you do not have reliable data on your business, you may not be in a position to react to this quickly. This might result in additional costs as you are unable to provide additional support for other industries during the pandemic. To reduce anxiety further, you could set up a COVID-19 Crisis Management team. An Inspection Checklist may assist them in ensuring that all measures have been taken to become COVID-secure, however we all know the hassle of keeping paperwork in an acceptable state. Quick scribbles on paper, busy environment, numerous copies floating around. We know this is a struggle.

Getting smarter with safety

You might have already questioned how you introduce stricter shift patterns with minimal disruption. By implementing a digital-based system, you will be able to view real-time progress on jobs and staff performance. This will not only enable to you adapt quickly but will also highlight additional areas for continuous improvement.

It’s unsensible to provide staff with paper copies of information when they are already anxious about the virus. Moving to a digital-based system will enable you to share documents with employees to be read on screens, thereby minimising the risk of cross-contamination. Additionally, you can record data digitally on the shop floor using a phone or tablet for all COVID-19 risk assessments. This way, you reduce the time spent in the office and maximise productivity. You won’t struggle to understand rushed notes that need to be typed up at a later date either.

COVID-19 Risk Assessment on an iPad

Daily checks can be undertaken and recorded digitally to speed up the process for staff that can’t work from home. As one of the main symptoms of the virus is a high temperature, you may wish to conduct temperature checks on employees. Whilst this can be completed on paper, you face more issues. The records may go missing, or they could be left in sight for people to see, therefore breaking GDPR and impeding your duty of care for staff.

By going digital, these problems vanish. Your process can become smarter, by automatically notifying you that an employee should get tested if their temperature is over 37.9 degrees. A digital system has the ability to hide unrequired fields, so your records become concise and easier to read. This way, if someone has normal temperature, you don’t have to worry about completing unnecessary information.

Digitally record the temperature of visitors and staff

Training employees

The pressure to diversify within the manufacturing industry is now paramount. UK air travel reduced by 97%, causing a revenue loss of around £20 billion in 2020. Consequently, manufacturers need to find new ways to earn an income and support other industries. Despite this, a recent survey evidenced almost two thirds of manufacturers have placed training on hold due to cost pressures. This is going to cause factories to face decline as they can’t scale and produce urgent products for other sectors.

We can argue that training has to be reintroduced so employees can learn new, important skills that will help them when producing products for other sectors. However, many factories aren’t currently adapted for remote working and it isn’t possible for people to work from home. With this in mind, how are you expected to socially distance trainees in a noisy environment? And, this doesn’t comprehend the cost of training in the first place, nor does it take into account the requirement of several employees touching machinery and handling paperwork. There has to be another method.  

Introducing digital working methods

You probably have employees that would be able to undertake their jobs remotely if they had the ability. With a digital system, you can maintain communication at all times and provide updates in a matter of seconds. You half your time by no longer visiting the shop floor! Team members would also be able to access certain information or even complete tasks from home. Not only would this increase productivity, but it will also give vulnerable employees a piece of mind.

Allowing visitors to enter the workplace

COVID-19 has produced an unpredictable year for many. No one is clear on what exactly will happen next, but we know that some work can’t be withheld. That’s why many workplaces are still allowing visitors. However, this increases the risk of transmission when we let this happen. You are often unaware of who a visitor is, where they have been and what they have touched whilst on the shop floor. Subsequently, visitors can dramatically increase the risk of transmission in your workplace.

An effective method undertaken by many industries during the pandemic is implementing a Visitor Log. It enables managers to track who is entering their premises and provides a method of contact should it be required. However, paper-based systems are still the main method.

A contaminated visitor enters your premises, uses the pen to write down their details, and waits to meet an employee. Perfect! You now have their details should you need to contact them regarding another virus transmission that you hear of. It’s not quite that simple. 5 minutes later, another visitor enters, but this time, they are COVID-free. They use the same pen to complete their details, and then they touch their facemask. Without realising, this visitor has now potentially contracted COVID-19 from another visitor. You hear from the contaminated visitor three days later, informing you that they have Coronavirus. However, when you attempt to communicate this with others that may have been in contact, the Visitor Log has vanished. You take a copy of it each day, but there are two copies with the same date on. You are now unsure on who is at risk and who to contact.

Implementing a digital Visitor Log

Has our example of cross-contamination had you questioning the process? As our very own CEO, Tom Dawes states, “COVID-19 regulations mean that you need to reduce the paper being handled to minimise person-to-person interaction. This is one area in particular where digitalisation is being accelerated by the pandemic”. Let’s look at the same scenario in a digitalised factory.

A contaminated visitor enters your premises and provides their full name and contact number to you. Your digital form is open for today’s visits, and you spend around 15 seconds inputting the date and time of the visitor’s entrance before keying in their details. You hit save. 5 minutes later, another visitor enters, but this time, they are COVID-free. They touch their facemask whilst telling you their details, but they have just used a pump of your hand sanitiser upon entering. You hear from the contaminated visitor three days later, informing you that they have Coronavirus. You then log onto your digital system and head to your recent report for the Visitor Log.

Contacting people has now become as simple as dialling in their phone number that is visible on the report. With a full audit log of actions, you don’t need a paper trail to prove that you are becoming COVID-secure.

Digitalise COVID-19 forms and documents

So, that’s great. But how can you easily start to implement these digital solutions?

Fitfactory’s Data Capture module specifically eliminates all issues associated with a paper-based system. With a simple interface that stores data in one location, Data Capture enables you to respond quickly to COVID-secure queries by loading reports in a matter of seconds. The built-in taskboard will allow you to monitor staff performance with real-time to-do lists and indications of late, upcoming and live tasks. This will assist you in making your factory COVID-secure as you adapt quickly, creating new teams to adhere to government advice and support other industries.

Fitfactory understands the need to reduce paper usage, not only during the pandemic, but for the environment too. That’s why we have implemented the ability to export reports as PDFs. You can attach every piece of captured data to an email or your ERP system. Forget telling staff that you are COVID-secure… show them. You can reduce anxiety over cross-contamination and save the trees simultaneously.

Now, we’ve made it easier for you to be COVID-secure with a whole category of templates in our free to access Library.

Data Capture’s Library of Templates

If you’re considering employee temperature checks, there’s no better way to record the data. If a temperature reads over 37.9 degrees, our system will highlight this. The system actions you to get tested and provides fields, that are otherwise hidden, that give you the ability to input results. Data Capture records every action taken, by who and when, so that you don’t have to do this manually. If you need to check when an employee began isolation, consult the audit log to find out.

To find out how your factory can become COVID-secure by using Data Capture, speak to a member of our team today.

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