A little over half of the employees at Williamsburg Firestone Industrial Products Plant returned to work on April 12 after a temporary two-week shutdown, and they saw increased safety measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The entire Williamsburg facility shut down on March 29, which was about one week after most of the company’s plants in North America and Latin America temporarily shut down to align supply with predicted demand.
The Williamsburg plant employs about 550 employees.
Bridgestone Americas Inc. Director of Communication Emily Weaver said that while the Williamsburg facility resumed operations on April 12, it was not a full start-up.
“We will bring back only the employees needed for the areas that will start up, which is approximately 300,” Weaver said in an e-mail Thursday.
Weaver said the company is monitoring demand and will continue to phase in more employees returning to work.
She said that the facility is using enhanced safety measures.
Firestone officials called all employees prior to start-up as a screening mechanism for COVID symptoms, exposure, or travel. Employees, who were not contacted, will not be able to work until that is complete.
“We have dramatically increased cleaning supplies and employees will be able to clean their equipment prior to shift start. We have also increased cleaning schedules for common areas of the plant,” Weaver said.
“We are putting into place operation and equipment changes to ensure employees are able to maintain the six-foot social distancing guideline as prescribed by the CDC. That may include reducing the number of employees at a piece of equipment, installing barriers to keep employees apart, slowing down equipment, re-routing walk ways, and painting six-foot intervals on the floor.”
The Williamsburg facility has also reworked areas that require frequent teammate handling or touching, and is limiting the number of people in break areas, offices, etc.
Employees also have assigned parking areas and entrance/exits, and can now take their lunches and breaks in their vehicles.
Management has also cancelled start of shift meetings, plant operational meetings, and so forth.
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.