Effective May 1st, in 77 Iowa counties, including Clarke, businesses have been given the green light to open their doors after weeks of silence. Restaurants, fitness centers, libraries, retail shops and more will be opening with some restrictions, and that’s certainly a sign of hope for those employees.
Through the shutdown, many essential manufacturers, considered some of Clarke County’s largest employers, have been operating at close to or fully staffed. Even with restrictions on outside contact in the form of sales calls, deliveries and more, local manufacturers have put into place stringent work protocols to protect their employees, and with the low number of cases being reported in the county, their actions have been effective.
“We’ve been happy with relatively steady employment numbers in the manufacturing industry throughout the crisis,” said Bill Trickey, Executive Director of the Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC). “Local manufacturers really acted quickly and helped their employees and our community avoid the worst.”
Trickey spoke with representatives from local manufacturers to find out what specific actions they’d taken to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and maintain a healthy staff. While many steps centered on best practices for clean and healthy workplaces as encouraged by the Governor and the CDC, others were developed specific to the workplace environment.
As advised by the CDC and the Governor, social distancing techniques have been integrated throughout the businesses. Wherever possible, the businesses have encouraged staff to work from home. Internally, from office space to production floors, ‘Isolation zones’ and specified work routes have been designated to assure space and efficiencies are maintained. Some businesses have also integrated staggered start and stop times for rotating work shifts. Large group meetings and business travel have also been eliminated.
Daily sanitation protocols have been put into place as well. Employees have been trained on proper sanitation processes and are required to clean and sanitize during their time at work – generally before and after shifts. Sanitation schedules have also been posted throughout many of the businesses as a reminder of the importance of keeping surfaces and workspaces clean for all staff. For freight and delivery areas, companies like Altec and Miller Products Company have created specific systems for receiving materials and assuring their safety.
In a bold move, many manufacturers have gone as far as removing time clocks to reduce the number of social touch points in the workspace. Some doors in facilities have also been removed or have had toe hooks installed so employee areas can be separated, but safe from possible contamination through touch. Temperature checks have also been implemented in some spaces. If an employee shows an elevated temperature, they’re sent home for self-quarantine in accordance with CDC guidelines.
At one facility, in the event an associate or someone in their household receives a medical directive regarding COVID-19 that they are confirmed or presumed positive, a temporary COVID-19 paid leave policy has been implemented to provide financial support if they are asked to self-isolate. This provision also applies to those who are asked by the government or a company official to quarantine.
“Our manufacturers are making working in Clarke County safer and more secure,” said Trickey. “The actions they’ve taken have not only helped their employees stay healthy, but make our community safer and stronger.”
Businesses large and small throughout the United States have been impacted by this crisis. And while the closures and isolation will have lingering effects, those who work for the strong manufacturing base in Clarke County and Osceola, Iowa will see the benefits of their preparation, their focus on the employees, and commitment to the community.