WINDSOR, Ont. — Auto assembly is slowly coming back online in Canada.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was the latest to fire up production lines as production resumed at its Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ont., where the automaker builds minivans.
All employees, from unionized hourly workers to office staff a few miles away at the company’s Canadian headquarters had to undergo a health screening before reporting to work.
Automotive News Canada was one of a handful of media that saw firsthand how employees are screened before entering the workplace — be it a factory or office space.
Six tents and six trailers have been deployed in parking lots east and west of the plant. Employees are first required to pass a daily online personal health questionnaire, delivered through an app on mobile phones.
They then slowly and methodically filed through a screening tent, following red dots spaced about six feet apart in the employee parking lots.
Once approved, workers apply hand sanitizer, are issued two paper face masks before moving on to a trailer where they undergo a thermal imaging temperature check and receive a pair of company-issued safety goggles before finally receiving a ticket to the plant. No ticket, no entrance.
“It was better than I expected. It was fairly smooth. People seemed to walk through the process fairly quickly,” said Jacqueline Oliva, head of human resources at FCA Canada. “There were some longer lineups at a couple tents. We’ll see if there is anything we need to tweak or improve.”
In Windsor alone, FCA has added six tents, six trailers, and 12 thermal imaging temperature checks. It will distribute at least 12,000 masks every day. Similar measures are in place at the automaker’s Brampton, Ont., plant where the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger are built.
FCA Canada didn’t say how much the changes would cost.
Oliva didn’t know how much production — if any — the new measures would cost the automaker on a daily, weekly or annual basis. She did say by all accounts, the line started as scheduled Tuesday.
“We were fortunate in that some of our other facilities specifically in China and Italy started before us, so we were able to have an understanding of some of the things they implemented and used those here,” Oliva said.
FCA has a protocol in place in the event that an employee falls ill on a shift. If employees feel sick or display symptoms while at work, they are to notify a supervisor and sent home. The automaker’s medical department would follow up.
Based on the medical advice, people might not be able to immediately return to work, Oliva said, because the advice might mean 14 days of self isolation at home.
At the plant, the worker’s area would be sanitized but nearby workers wouldn’t be sent home immediately, unless they too would display symptoms, she said.
“If there was a confirmed case of someone that had COVID, we follow a protocol where we work with the local health unit and identify the close contacts of that individual and then follow the advice the medical professionals give to them,” Oliva said.
She wouldn’t discuss “worst-case scenarios” such as an outbreak.
“I can’t speak to scenarios that may or may not happen or hypotheticals. Today is Day 1. Obviously, there will be some bumps in the road as we go along. Those we will work through,” she said.
Honda back online
FCA wasn’t the only automaker ramping up production.
Honda of Canada manufacturing facilities in Alliston, Ont., where the Japanese automaker makes the Honda Civic, quietly began limited production May 12.
“With the health and safety of our associates remaining our top priority operations are proceeding slowly,” Honda Canada spokesman John Bordignon said in an email to Automotive News Canada. “We are taking a measured approached with an emphasis on training and enhanced safety procedures.
“We have strengthened health and safety guidelines and our plans are comprehensive and align with local health guidelines.”
Honda Canada is doing the following:
- Enhancing cleaning and sanitation of all plant facilities;
- Staggering shifts and reduced break room and cafeteria seating to help maintain physical distancing;
- Requiring all associates and visitors to wear masks and have their temperatures checked before entering the plants, and;
- Putting an emphasis on social distancing, hand hygiene, the importance of not touching the face and staying home if feeling ill.
“We will continue to carefully monitor our activities and make necessary changes in the interests of the health and safety of Honda associates,” Bordignon said.
General Motors was also scheduled to resume production Tuesday, but the automaker wasn’t available for comment.
Ford Canada is scheduled to resume assembly at its Oakville, Ont., plant May 25.
Toyota Canada wasn’t immediately available for comment.