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Ford has implemented a phased restart for its South African operations beginning 1 June, including restarting vehicle and engine production and bringing back the first wave of employees that are not able to do their jobs remotely.

“We’ve been working intently with national government, our safety and medical teams, unions and our workforce to reopen our Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria and Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth,” says Ockert Berry, VP Operations, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA). “Since the beginning of April we have been producing protective face shields at the Silverton plant, and are using the lessons from this project, along with input from our global Ford teams, the Department of Health and our medical specialists to ensure we are taking the right precautions to help keep our workforce safe.”

The ramp-up process will be gradual as workers adjust to the new health and safety protocols, and the entire supply chain comes up to speed. Employees that are able to work remotely will continue to do so, including Ford’s administration, finance, sales and marketing staff. The staggered approach allows Ford to effectively implement new safety protocols and provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for all employees as they return to work.

“Our HR, medical, safety, engineering and facilities teams at both plants have used the past two weeks to fully prepare for our employees to safely return to work,” Berry adds. All workstations, equipment, offices and common areas have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and this will be repeated daily prior to each shift. Cleaning agents, disinfectants and hand sanitiser stations have been provided in all office spaces, production areas and meeting rooms to allow employees to maintain the necessary hygiene standards.

Additionally, social distancing measures have been implemented and demarcated throughout the facilities, offices and common areas to make it easy for employees to maintain the minimum 2-metre separation.

“We have also established dedicated Flu Clinics at both plants for employees or contractors that exhibit any cold or flu-like symptoms during working hours,” Berry explains. “The clinics are manned by specially trained medical staff to evaluate the person’s condition and advise if further testing or medical treatment is required. Should there be any confirmed COVID-19 cases at our plants, we have protocols in place for contact tracing, self-isolation, case reporting as well as intensive cleaning and disinfection procedures.”

To guide the workforce with the new health and safety protocols, Ford has compiled a comprehensive “Manufacturing Return to Work Playbook” to help protect its workforce, assembled using best practices and input from experts around the world. Some of the safety protocols include:

  • Daily online employee and visitor health self-certifications completed before work. Employees or visitors who indicate they may have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus will be told not to come to Ford facilities. They should self-isolate or contact the dedicated Ford COVID-19 hotline
  • No-touch temperature scans for all employees and contractors upon arrival – anyone with a raised temperature will not be permitted to enter and will need to be cleared of symptoms before returning to work
  • Required face masks for everyone entering a Ford facility. Every Ford team member will be provided a care kit including face masks and other items to help keep them healthy and comfortable at work
  • Face shields will be provided when jobs don’t allow for social distancing
  • There will be more time between production shifts to limit interaction between employees and allow for additional cleaning

Ford dealers are also progressively ramping up their operations in line with government guidelines. Moving to Alert Level 3 restrictions from 1 June 2020, dealerships are able to operate with their full staff complement. Strict hygiene and social distancing requirements remain in place for all employees and customers, including the wearing of a face mask that covers the nose and mouth.

Employees will continue to be screened daily on arrival for work, and any person that is sick or has COVID-19 systems will be required to stay at home or contact their health practitioner. The dealership and all vehicles will be sanitised regularly, including before and after test drives or vehicle servicing.

Watch a video that details Ford’s COVID-19 efforts to protect employees returning to work below.