CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (May 13, 2020) — Volkswagen Chattanooga plans to resume production May 17 using a multi-phased approach. The factory implemented more than 90 new health and safety measures after voluntarily suspending operations in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gradual ramp-up will help ensure a reliable supply base while providing workers with time to adapt to the new procedures and preventative measures.
New health and safety measures
Volkswagen implemented new policies and procedures which follow recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These 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.
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.
Added precautions include:
- Temperature scanning: everyone entering the plant will undergo touch-free temperature checks, 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.
- Masks and cloth face coverings: a new face mask will be provided to employees and contractors each day. Face masks or cloth coverings will be mandatory at all times except when eating or drinking, or when alone in isolated areas.
- Sanitizer stations: installed throughout the factory in common walkways, at work stations, in break areas, near all kiosks and vending machines, and in cafeterias.
- Gloves: available to all employees and contractors, but not mandatory.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequency: added more staff to the cleaning crew to increase disinfection and sanitation activities throughout the factory during both day and night shifts, using EPA-approved disinfectants.
- Limited touch points: doors are propped open throughout the factory to limit touchpoints. All ice machines are closed.
- Air circulation: increased the amount of fresh air inside the factory.
- Visitor policy: no visitors will be permitted inside the factory.
- Coordination with suppliers: Volkswagen has been working closely with suppliers, who are required to follow the same health and safety protocols as Volkswagen to help ensure all parts entering the plant are prepared in a responsible way.
- Reminders: throughout the factory, digital and printed signs 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.
Social distancing measures include:
- Stanchions and signage: to clearly indicate and encourage six-foot separation.
- Staggered shift start times: to reduce the flow of employees arriving and departing work.
- Staggered lunch, break times: to reduce the amount of people in the cafeteria and break areas.
- Production processes: adjusted workstations and procedures to increase the amount of space between workers.
- Capacity restrictions: limiting the number of persons who can enter common areas, such as meeting rooms, restrooms and team-wear store; the fitness center and Volkswagen Academy are closed.
- Updated event, training policy: gatherings of 10 people or more are restricted. All classroom trainings are suspended or transferred to virtual settings.
- Shuttle suspension: to minimize crowding and maximize social distancing.
- Reconfigurations: new seating arrangements in break areas, cafeterias and meeting rooms to increase the distance between workers.
- Partitions: in all break areas as well as work areas where a six-foot distance is not easily achieved, tall corrugated-plastic partitions have been installed. Barricades have been installed in the Conference Center for temperature check queuing, as well as on the bridge entering the factory.
- Remote work: to limit the number of people in the factory at one time, salaried and support employees able to telework will continue to do so.
- Reminders: six-foot distance indicators are installed in common walkways and the Conference Center. Throughout the factory, digital and printed signage reminds workers of social distancing.
The Company will continue to monitor the situation and evaluate its processes, keeping the health and well-being of everyone at Volkswagen Chattanooga as top priority. Enhanced measures will continue until conditions allow for return to regular work and cleaning processes.
The factory suspended production March 21 prior to stay-at-home mandates from state and local government out of an abundance of caution. Volkswagen employees and production contractors received full pay and benefits during this time, for a total of three additional weeks of compensation. On April 11, production and maintenance employees were placed on temporary emergency furlough. Furloughed employees continued to receive health care benefits and coverage of premiums during this time.
The Tennessee Pledge asks businesses to provide safe working conditions that protect both employees and consumers, while securing their livelihoods. This plan also asks employees to commit to protecting themselves, their co-workers and the customers they serve. Finally, it encourages every Tennessee resident to act responsibly by following recommended guidelines for social distancing, hygiene and wearing protective equipment when appropriate. For more information, visit https://www.tn.gov/governor/covid-19/economic-recovery/tennessee-pledge.html.
About Volkswagen Chattanooga
The Volkswagen Chattanooga manufacturing facility began production in April 2011. Volkswagen Chattanooga currently assembles the Volkswagen Passat, a midsize sedan, and the Volkswagen Atlas, a midsize sport utility vehicle. In March 2018, Volkswagen Chattanooga was announced as the production home of a five-seat SUV, the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. In January 2019, Volkswagen Chattanooga was announced as Volkswagen’s North American base for manufacturing electric vehicles, representing an $800 million investment, and broke ground on the expansion in November 2019. Volkswagen Chattanooga currently employs approximately 3,800 team members.