Coronavirus Puts Factory Health Risk in the Spotlight
Coronavirus is spreading at an alarming pace, becoming more of a global concern with each passing day. Originating in Wuhan, China, the first cases of coronavirus were reported on Dec. 30. In just 40 days, the virus had claimed the lives of 1,018 people and infected more than 43,000 worldwide. Cases have been reported in more than 28 countries, signaling that the worst could be yet to come.
China’s battle with an epidemic
Coronavirus has been incredibly disruptive to China in a short amount of time — to Chinese manufacturing, in particular. Many major manufacturers have reported everything from product delays to contract cancellations in the face of worker shortages as coronavirus ravages factories. Manufacturers like Foxconn, which handles iPhone production for Apple, have been forced to delay or shift production, sending rippling negative effects through the Chinese economy.
The swiftness and severity of the virus has taken even well-prepared factories off guard. As the situation worsens without an impending cure, China is bracing for even more disruption to vital manufacturing operations.
Touchdown in the United States
Several cases of coronavirus have already been reported in the U.S., including in New Jersey, Chicago, and other major metropolitan areas. As the virus establishes itself on U.S. soil, American manufacturers are bracing for the same catastrophic fallout China has faced. In fact, many analysts believe coronavirus may be an even bigger threat to American manufacturing when juxtaposed against current headwinds, such as a lack of skilled professionals.
Even despite the relative sparseness of the virus in the United States, domestic manufacturers are still feeling the pain. Global supply chains have been encumbered for nearly a month due to production and transport concerns coming out of China. One logistics risk management analyst was quoted earlier this month saying, “The ripple effect coming from one region in China is completely unprecedented. We’ve never seen anything like this.”
Is your factory ready for an epidemic?
With coronavirus dominating the headlines, many manufacturers have begun looking at their own contingency plans in the event the virus reaches a critical state. What many are finding is that they’re ill-equipped to handle an epidemic-like outbreak. Even more concerning is the culture of presenteeism that may drive workers to put themselves in the path of the virus.
A 2018 survey found that nearly half of workers with paid sick days did not use a single one in the previous year. The trend toward presenteeism often pushes workers to come to work despite their sickness, leading to the spread of the illness. Even more workers don’t have sick days or personal days to take, and they come to work for fear of losing pay. The first step in safeguarding a factory against the likes of coronavirus and similar epidemics is to address the culture of working while sick. Putting employee health first may very well equate to a major crisis averted.
Workplace illness checklist
Proactive action is the best method for preventing downtime, lost revenue, and long-term harm to your operations. Encourage employees to follow these simple standards for coping with illness in the workplace:
- Do not come to work if you have a fever or exhibit signs of illness (coughing, sneezing).
- Be sure to thoroughly wash hands or use hand sanitizer throughout the day.
- Wear a mask if you start to feel symptoms of illness and at the tail-end of recovery.
- Get a flu shot and/or schedule a physician appointment during peak cold and flu season.
- Try not to share tools, food, or personal items with others during peak illness season.
- Maintain a good diet and sleep schedule, to strengthen your immune system against general illnesses.