Michigan reopens manufacturing; automakers setting up safety COVID-19 protocols

May 11, 2020

Manufacturing workers in Michigan can return to their jobs as of today, but automakers have not yet set return-to-work dates. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced last week that the manufacturing sector in the state, including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler and other companies in the auto supply chain, can return to work.

Manufacturers must first put in place plans, such as daily entry screenings and a questionnaire reviewing symptoms and possible exposure to people with COVID-19, to protect workers from the spread of the disease.

Companies also must have designated entrances at all facilities and no longer allow non-essential in-person visits, including tours. They must train workers on the proper use of personal protective equipment and on how COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person, including symptoms of the disease.

While Ford Motor Company estimates it lost $2 billion in the first three months of 2020, the company said it will be cautious to make sure workers are safe. Ford’s U.S. employees are likely to see the same precautions the company set up in its plants in China, which includes temperature scanning, no-touch doors, sanitizing work areas and protective gear including masks, face shields and shields between workers.

"We continue to engage in talks with Ford on an ongoing basis regarding protocols for the health and safety of our members in the workplace,” United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble said in a statement.

General Motors released “Returning to Work with Confidence,” a 48-page manual that auto industry analysts said was on target.

The manual addresses risk mitigation, sanitizing frequently touched workspaces and site entry, including taking temperatures and health interviews. It also addresses ventilation, the need for physical distancing when possible and protective equipment when distancing is impossible.

“In these uncertain times, we must focus on controlling what we can, and we will continue to take the appropriate actions,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. "As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we are ready to adapt and make any changes to policy in accordance with relevant health and safety protocols issued by authorities."

Whitmer recently extended Michigan’s stay-at-home order until May 28. Residents cannot leave their homes except to run essential errands, to participate in safe, socially distant outdoor activities or to go to specified jobs.