Area manufacturers advised to implement safety guidelines for reopening

NOW: Area manufacturers advised to implement safety guidelines for reopening

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Manufacturing continues to be one of the state’s leading industries, employing 16-percent of the workforce. While many manufacturers are essential, there are a number that are now challenged with preparing to reopen.

The Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired is one of a number of manufacturers in the Milwaukee area deemed essential. They say staying open during the pandemic with hundreds of employees has been a ‘delicate balance.’

IBVI makes tool kits for the construction of buildings, and they currently have a contract with the U.S. military.

“We’re considered essential,” said CJ Lange, President and CEO of IBVI. “So our jobs are there as long as we can remain safe and care for our people that are working.”

To stay safe, the company has an on-site doctor doing temperature checks. They’re also staggering shifts and make sure employees stay more than six feet apart.

“We’ve kind of got a leg up on that. We’ve always been a very safe and conscious organization, but in these times very much so, it’s on a whole different level,” adds CJ Lange.

Experts say some manufacturers face a unique set of challenges, especially with production lines.

“It’s almost like a well-articulated dance, and now you have to do that at greater distance, watch for pitch points and make sure people have protective equipment,” says Tim Sheehy, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says more than 9,000 manufacturers account for nearly 20-percent of the state’s GDP. They say many who have remained open have done a good job protecting their workplace.

“We are seeing many manufacturers and many businesses requiring masks of their employees and of their customers and that’s one of the best ways we can help everybody,” said Missy Hughes, Secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

WEDC has released guidelines for manufacturing companies reopening after consulting with global manufacturers.

“We’ve seen assessments on when to have meetings and rather than having meetings in a room, they’re having them out on the production floor so that everybody can stay socially distanced from each other. We’ve also seen, you know, making sure there’s a cleaning and disinfecting process,” adds Hughes.

On Wednesday the Association of Equipment Manufacturers also provided a hub for businesses to find PPE, sanitizing supplies and safety signage for COVID-19.

“I think we’re going to see new normal types of things where we have Plexiglas on the floor to help, you know, protect between people, so it’s both short-term and long-term fixes,” said Hughes.

WEDC also recommends manufacturers use electronic devices like two-way radios to communicate and train in order to limit face-to-face interaction.

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