Throughout the past year, there have been a handful of industries that have come to be recognized as absolutely essential to the strength and integrity of the American economy. The professionals that work within those industries have been elevated to the status of heroes – and rightly so. Without our healthcare workers, delivery truck drivers, retail clerks, caregivers, and food producers (just to name a few examples), this pandemic would have been unimaginably more difficult for the average American.
The manufacturing industry is another field that has proven to be indispensable – and maybe even indestructible – during the pandemic. In the early days of the crisis, many people harbored justifiable fears that the strain of the pandemic would be enough to temporarily halt the gears of the American manufacturing machine. But through it all, our manufacturing workers have refused to quit, and it’s because of them that we have access to the goods that we rely on to live safely and comfortably at home.
The unwavering strength of the American manufacturing industry in 2020 can be largely attributed to the environment, health, and safety (EHS) protocol that have been adopted by most manufacturing employers.
COVID-19-Era EHS Policies in the Manufacturing Industry
Most employers, across most industries, have adapted to the new era of social distancing by mandating that all employees begin working from home until further notice. This approach has not been a practical solution in the manufacturing industry, for the very simple reason that most manufacturing employees need to be on-site to be able to do their jobs. (As of 2020, it isn’t possible for a team of people to assemble a car or a household appliance over a Zoom meeting.)
This poses a serious dilemma for manufacturing businesses: How do you keep employees safe in an environment that demands them to work long hours in close proximity to one another?
Interestingly, the nationwide push for improved EHS conditions in the manufacturing industry was largely started by employees, not managers. Corporate was pushing it, but employees were demanding it. Not only for their own personal safety, but also for the integrity of their industry and for the sake of the consumer. Eventually, the call for improved EHS conditions among employees became so loud that it began to influence corporate policies.
Social distancing was, for obvious reasons, the first wide-scale EHS policy that was adopted by manufacturing employers to stop the spread of COVID-19. In addition, many manufacturing companies were early adopters to the notion that all employees should wear masks in the workplace. To that end, many employers began to order masks in bulk during the early days of the crisis. Limiting business-related travel and implementing mandatory temperature checks were two more policies that quickly became standard best practices.
By almost every possible measure, those new EHS policies within the manufacturing industry have been working. Vital supply lines have been continuing to hold, which means that millions of Americans are still able to purchase vital household goods and supplies. And manufacturing businesses who took action to protect workplace EHS in the early months of 2020 are now enjoying record-low levels in COVID-19 outbreaks as a result.
What’s Next for Workplace EHS in the Manufacturing Industry?
The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to evolve by the day. At this point, it’s impossible for anyone in the manufacturing industry to predict with absolute certainty what EHS best practices are going to look like one year (or even one month) from now.
What is certain, however, is that the pandemic is going to continue to create new and unpredictable challenges within the industry, for employees and employers alike. In order to be able to cope with those challenges effectively, it will be essential for manufacturing employers to continue to prioritize the health and safety of their employees. This will require employers to engage with their employees in an open and honest dialogue about EHS concerns and solutions. This is just one of the many pandemic-era challenges that can be alleviated through a partnership with a professional recruiter!
Here at Lucas Group, we specialize in helping employers to navigate the challenges of a new and rapidly evolving business landscape. If you’re interested in learning more about how manufacturing employers can improve their EHS policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, please reach out to me today!