Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant, after a 57-day shut down due to the coronavirus, will restart on Sunday in a phased ramp-up of production, the automaker said Wednesday.
The factory will have more than 90 new health and safety measures in place for returning employees, including touch-free temperature checking of everyone entering the plant and providing masks daily to workers, according to VW.
The company said it will adjust workstations and procedures to increase the amount of space between workers.
Also, the plant is staggering shift start times to reduce the flow of employees arriving and departing work. In addition, it's staggering lunch and break times to reduce the amount of people in the cafeteria and break areas, according to VW.
VW Chattanooga suspended production on March 21 and then temporarily furloughed about 2,500 assembly and maintenance workers on April 11. The plant will gradually increase production to ensure a reliable supply base while providing workers with time to adapt to the new procedures and preventative measures, the company said.
Gestamp, Volkswagen Chattanooga's biggest local supplier with some 1,000 workers, temporarily shut its three factories here in March in the wake of the VW plant closure.
"We've shut down until our customers get back on track," said Susana Tello, Gestamp's North American communications director, at the time.
Volkswagen said its new safety policies and procedures follow recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, the measures comply with the Tennessee Pledge developed by Governor Bill Lee, the Unified Command Group and Tennessee's Economic Recovery Group with input from health experts, state and local partners and business and industry leaders.
VW said that employees and contractors received a handbook with an overview of the new procedures so that they may familiarize themselves before returning to work.
"This week employees and contractors will participate in virtual training to further enhance awareness," the company said.
VW said that temperature scanning will be administered by trained personnel using clinical-grade devices. No one with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be permitted inside the facility.
Also, face masks or cloth coverings will be mandatory at all times except when eating or drinking, or when alone in isolated areas.
The company said it's putting into place sanitizer stations throughout the factory in common walkways, at work stations, in break areas, near all kiosks and vending machines, and in cafeterias.
Gloves will be available to all employees and contractors, but they're not mandatory, according to VW.
Other measures include:
More staff were added to the cleaning crew to increase disinfection and sanitation activities throughout the factory during both day and night shifts, using EPA-approved disinfectants.
Doors will be propped open throughout the factory to limit touch points. All ice machines are closed.
Increased fresh air will be enabled inside the factory.
No visitors will be permitted inside the plant.
Suppliers will be required to follow the same health and safety protocols as Volkswagen inside the plant to help ensure all parts are prepared in a responsible way.
Throughout the factory, digital and printed signs will remind workers of new safety procedures, helpful health information and CDC guidelines.
"All employees and contractors are asked to perform self-health checks before coming to work and to contact the on-site medical team if they are ill," the company said.