Firestone officials have confirmed that a contractor at the Williamsburg Firestone Industrial Products Plant has tested positive for COVID-19, and employees, who may have had contact with the affected contractor, will be directed to self-quarantine for 14 days and to contact their healthcare provider if they develop any symptoms, according to the company.
It is unclear how many employees are being required to self-quarantine as a result of the potential exposure.
Bridgestone of Americas Inc. Director of Communications Emily Weaver said that on May 8, Bridgestone Americas received confirmation of a contractor at the Williamsburg Firestone Industrial Products Plant testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). The contractor is currently in isolation at home.
“We remain in contact with the contractor and all employees at the facility to provide clear direction and ensure their safety regarding this matter,” she said in a news release. “We were prepared for this and are following our rapid response plans developed through our Enterprise Crisis Management Team. This team has been monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and consulting federal, state and local officials, as well as health organizations to coordinate risk mitigation and business continuity strategies.”
“Out of an abundance of caution and to help ensure the continued safety and well-being of our employees, Firestone did a deep cleaning and disinfecting of the area of the facility where the contractor worked.”
She said Firestone continues to monitor the situation closely and will adjust its response plan and activities, as necessary, in order to ensure the well-being and safety of its employees and contractors.
The Williamsburg facility temporarily showdown on March 29 and resumed operations after April 12, as part of a national shutdown of Firestone facilities after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The company has several safety measures in place at all active manufacturing locations in North America.
“We developed an Environmental Health Safety & Sustainability (EHSS) Playbook that outlines all of the measures that must be taken to promote teammate safety before production can resume. This playbook guided the restart of operations at our Commercial Tire plants in the U.S., which includes the Des Moines Agricultural Tire Plant,” the release stated.
Some measures currently in place include:
- Enhanced Cleaning Measures:Firestone has deployed very specific disinfecting plans, aligned with CDC guidelines, that include more frequent cleaning with a special focus on regularly disinfecting high traffic, high touch areas. It also has installed hand sanitizer stations in break and common areas.
- Ongoing Education:The company continues to educate teammates on virus prevention. It is providing teammates with information on how to social distance, proper handwashing techniques, and other hygiene best practices, and has posted information provided by the CDC about COVID-19 with a specific focus on educating teammates about virus symptoms and steps they can take to protect themselves and other teammates.
- Changes to Sick Leave/Absenteeism Policy:The human resources team made changes to its absenteeism/sick leave policy to encourage teammates to stay home if they are sick. The company has also suspended unexcused absences for COVID-19-related reasons.
Other enhanced safety measures being taken at Williamsburg include:
- All employees prior to start-up were contacted as a screening mechanism for COVID symptoms, exposure, or travel.
- Non-contact forehead temperature scanning of all personnel (clock, salaried, contractors, etc.) is being done on all people, who enter the plant. Employees who have a temperature per CDC guidelines or who state that they do not feel well are instructed to go home and call human resources for instructions.
- Increased cleaning supplies and employees are able to clean their equipment prior to shift start. There are also increased cleaning schedules for common areas of the plant.
- Operation and equipment changes to ensure employees are able to maintain the six-foot social distancing guideline as prescribed by the CDC. This includes reducing the number of employees at a piece of equipment, installing barriers to keep employees apart, slowing down equipment, re-routing walk ways, removing shower heads to force distance between employees, painting six-foot intervals on the floor.
- Supplying face coverings for those employees, who can’t social distance. For those employees who are able to maintain social distancing but would still feel comfortable wearing a face covering, the company has changed its policy and are allowing employees to bring their own face coverings in from home. In addition to that, the plant has purchased a large supply of disposable masks and they are made available to any employee who asks for one.
- Reworked areas that require frequent employee handling or touching.
- Limited the number of people in common areas.
- Cancelled start of shift meetings, plant operational meetings, etc.
All of the above items were implemented with the sole purpose of keeping employees safe as much as possible while in the Williamsburg plant, the release noted.
Many of these safety measures were put in place several weeks ago, before the company’s temporary manufacturing shutdown and the company continues them today as it resumes operations at certain locations, the release added.
Memorial Day shutdown
Over the past several weeks, Bridgestone has implemented temporary phased shutdowns of its manufacturing facilities to align supply to predicted demand in the market.
“Several of our manufacturing facilities, including the Williamsburg Plant which reopened on April 13, have already resumed operations. We continue to monitor all aspects of our employee safety protocols and current business environment to determine future reopening activities at our other manufacturing facilities,” the release stated.
There are additional temporary shutdowns already planned at certain Bridgestone and Firestone manufacturing locations in the U.S. around the Memorial Day and Independence Day holiday periods.
The Williamsburg Plant plans to temporarily shut down around the Memorial Day holiday this year from May 24 through May 30 based on current demand in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Bridgestone remains focused on safety first, while continuing to meet the needs of our customers with speed and efficiency. We have sufficient supply of product to meet customer demand and our distribution centers, plant warehouses and logistics teams continue to fill orders. We are monitoring this situation very closely and will adjust our business continuity response plans as needed,” Weaver said in the release.
The Williamsburg plant is the only remaining air-spring manufacturing plant in the United States, and as of 2018 produced 4.9 million plus air-springs.