May 21, 2020

CDC, OSHA Issue Guidance for Manufacturing Facilities Operating During the Pandemic

New guidance published by CDC and OSHA is intended to help employers decrease the spread of COVID-19 in manufacturing facilities. Several factors affect workers’ risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in manufacturing workplaces. For example, manufacturing workers frequently work close to one another on production or assembly lines, often for prolonged periods of time. According to CDC, continued contact with potentially infectious individuals increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Manufacturing workers may also be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 through respiratory droplets in the air when infected workers cough or sneeze in a facility. Other factors unique to the manufacturing industry that may increase workers’ risk include frequent contact with fellow workers in community settings in areas where there is ongoing community transmission and sharing transportation such as rideshare vans or shuttle vehicles, carpools, and public transportation.

The guidance describes prevention practices and controls meant to reduce the risk of transmission of and illness from COVID-19 in manufacturing facilities. Engineering controls such as configuring communal work environments so that workers are spaced at least six feet apart in all directions can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Employers should also consider consulting a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning engineer to ensure that ventilation is adequate in work areas to help minimize workers’ potential exposures to SARS-CoV-2. Administrative controls that can promote social distancing include limiting facility access to essential workers; staggering workers’ arrival and departure times; designating workers to monitor and facilitate distancing; and providing visual cues such as floor markings and signs to remind workers to maintain social distancing. Other topics covered in the guidance include cloth face coverings in manufacturing work, cleaning and disinfection, screening and monitoring workers for COVID-19, managing sick workers, and personal protective equipment.

The new guidance urges all manufacturing facilities that are developing plans to continue operations in a setting where COVID-19 is occurring among workers or in the surrounding community to work directly with appropriate state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals. View the full guidance on CDC’s website.