How can one ensure manufacturing continue operations uninterrupted?
By protecting employee health? Well then, how can this be achieved? Yes, by a renewed emphasis on cleaning and hygiene!
Salaries depend upon the economy, the economy depends on industries, and the industries depend on salaried workers — this smooth cycle of wealth generation was rudely interrupted by the pandemic. To spread this message and broadcast practical ways in which this can be achieved, Clean India Journal initiated a two-day webinar on ‘Defining the new normal in industrial cleaning and hygiene’, for manufacturing industries especially Gujarat and other parts of India. supported by Roots Multiclean Ltd and Karcher Cleaning Systems, and attended by factory managers, FM professionals, industrialists and HR personnel from 56 cities.
The first session of the first day was kicked off with a short but meaningful keynote address by Shailesh Patel, President – Gujarat State Plastic Manufacturers Association (GSPMA), who reminded everyone about the need for constant vigilance against Covid when he said: “If even one worker is positive, all operations have to be shut down and everyone has to self-quarantine for 14 days.” He was followed by Harshad Mehta, President – Vitthal Udyognagar Industries Association (VUIA), who asserted that when it comes to Covid, “Prevention is better than cure. We have to educate people to safeguard our industries and keep them running”.
Their speeches dovetailed into the panel on ‘Making Manufacturing Facilities Safe from Infection & Contamination’, in which Patel pointed out the change Covid has brought about:
“Before the pandemic, people were against plastic. During the pandemic, the situation has totally reversed. All PPE, masks and gloves are made from plastic. It is the only way to keep safe.”
He went on to explain that plastic is not the problem; littering of plastic is. Using facts to bolster his argument, he said that while the world recycles only 30% of its plastic, India recycles up to 70%. Consumption-wise, Indians require only 13 kg plastic/ head while the world average is 30 kg/head. With better collection arrangements from the government and local bodies, more and more plastic – whose manufacture has only increased in the pandemic situation – can be safely recovered and recycled.
Sam Cherian, MD – Schevaran Laboratories emphasised the omniscience of Covid by stating that its transmission is of concern in any closed-door operation,
which covers all offices and almost all manufacturing facilities. “We need to use an appropriate method to keep the virus away”, he said. “The virus has a protein coat, which can only be combated with an alcohol-based product. An alcohol-based fumigant can eliminate the virus from the air, and surface wipes can eliminate it from surfaces. Using the right tools, we can reduce the transmission and mutation of the virus. We can only do prevention, because there is no cure yet”.
He went on to explain why water-based solutions need to be avoided. While a detergent can be an effective solution, those who actually dilute the chemical may not always follow instructions, and need to be supervised. And if one dilutes bleach, a part of its active ingredient – chlorine – goes away. Water-based disinfectants also increase moisture in indoor spaces, an undesirable result.
“Instead of relying on certifications, ask what the product contains. A product doesn’t need a certificate; it needs to work,” concluded Cherian.
Krishna Kumar J, President – Sales & Marketing, Roots Multiclean Ltd reminded the audience that while there is risk of transmission from the security gate to the scrapyard of a manufacturing facility, the focus of cleaning is only on the manufacturing area. From visiting couriers to workers who live in diverse parts of the city – some of which are containment areas – the virus enters a facility mainly on the coattails of human beings.
In Session 2 – Technological Investments, he recommended the use of rider-scrubbers for floor cleaning in indoor areas and industrial sweepers for external areas. Steam vacuums, he said, can work on every conceivable exposed surface. He advised manufacturers to outsource cleaning responsibilities to professionals, and focus on their core activities.
Head of HR at Bee Pee Coatings (Berger Paints) Sunil Joshi asserted that their production staff attended with the same regularity throughout lockdown. Why was this possible? Because of an in-house disinfection system invented during the pandemic, and ensuring automatic sanitiser dispensers are available on each work table.
Mehta spoke for his fellow industrialists when he said that “Since lockdown, we have not let anyone go to any government offices for permissions. The association has worked to make things happen online. Every ten days, we send out reminders to industries on Covid guidelines, backed by a Covid warriors team, which went to different facilities and solved their problems on the ground”.
Schevaran’s Director of Sales Benjamin Alexander showcased his company’s line of products which can be used to clean computer screens, mobile phones, table-tops, and even hands. Combining alcohol with virucides, they have also been incorporated into disposable, 100% biodegradable TNT fabric wipes, which can cover a large area.
Speaking on behalf of Forbes Facility Services, CEO & Executive Director Vinay Deshmukh, who also moderated the sessions, said: “Everyone from Forbes who comes to work at your facility is medically tested for Covid at recognised labs, and only then permitted to enter. We also issue a co-branded certificate to certify that the premises have been disinfected”.
In the session on ‘Safety in Material Movement’, Ranison Christian, Sr Manager, Konark Plastomech listed a variety of measures they have undertaken to reduce the risk of transmission with respect to the transport of goods into and outside facilities. The use of dedicated transporters and dedicated warehouses is non- negotiable. Keeping incoming trucks untouched for 24 hours when possible and passing all incoming papers through UV scanners were just two of the ways. Reducing dependence on manual labour and implementing a conveyor system has been instituted wherever practical.
Temperature screening of all those entering the premises for Covid with thermal guns has become
mandatory; truck drivers are not allowed to exit the truck unless absolutely necessary (like for using the washroom). Once they are done with the shift, the driver’s cab is fumigated. The interior of the facility is also sanitised between production shifts. There is to be no unnecessary roaming or lounging.
Taking this a step further,
Harish, Head – Administration &
Facilities, ABB, described how he
got incoming trucks to line up and
be sanitised together, or be left
untouched for a ‘cooling period’
of 24-72 hours. He warned
attendees about the necessity
for the engine to be switched
off before sanitisation, since the
chemicals used are flammable.
How can this cooling period be implemented? “Maintain seven days’ inventory”, said Joshi. “And during a pandemic, don’t trust anybody’s word on sanitisation. All plastic containers and drums for packaging – which usually come in at the last minute – are sanitised by the manufacturer and then again by us”.
Session 1 of Day 2 was on ‘Workplace Safety in the New Normal’, which began on a heartening note when keynote speaker Milan Patel, Joint MD, Troikaa Pharmaceuticals Ltd informed the audience that despite 15-20 positive cases among his workforce, the enforcement of Covid guidelines ensure that none of them were high-risk cases. “If you cannot make your employees comfortable” he said, “productivity is bound to go down”.
His colleague Ramachandran KM, Sr VP – HR at Troikaa, listed a host of exhaustive measures for workplace safety in the times of Covid – stagger employee attendance, stagger entry to avoid crowding at the entrance, sanitise hands after biometric attendance, create a seating plan that ensures social distancing and create markings to promote distancing. His company has listed 80+ checkpoints, each monitored by a designated person assisted by CCTV monitoring. The SOP extends beyond the facility, to include home and travel safety measures. Documenting sanitisation, the method, the time and the resource person is paramount.
In the next session on ‘Right Products and Solutions’, Alexander shared that before the pandemic, the attitude of many clients was that cleaning should happen, and everything should ‘look’ clean. However, now is the time to pivot from a clean facility to a hygienic facility, for which it is important to choose the right chemical – acidic, alkaline or neutral – based on the surface to be cleaned. But this may actually be harmful”, he warned, also emphasizing on the need for audits to ensure the product is fulfilling its mandate.
He was followed by Venu Madhavan, GM – Karcher Cleaning Systems, who pointed out that hot water can eliminate only 30% of viruses, while steam cleaners can kill up to 99.99% of the virus. He also spoke about a contingency plan to deal with heightened demand from customers.
“Earlier,washrooms were washed twice or thrice in one shift,” said Rishikesh Dhodapkar, Business Head – Food Services, Forbes Facility Services, “now, it’s every hour”. Finding ways to prevent the use of hands while entering washrooms, replacing
dispensers with automatic dispensers and providing tissue paper to close taps are some ways to break the chain of transmission in washrooms. “It’s not always about cost, we also need to protect human life”.
Ramachandran shared that his company has increased investment in protecting employee health, such as providing more shuttles for transport to ensure physical distancing.
In the third and final session on Make Hygiene a Habit, he said that initially, it was a challenge to get people to understand the importance of personal hygiene. Targeted communication to transfer ownership of workplace safety to individuals is key to ensure negligible risk of transmission at the workplace.
Speaking about his particular area of responsibility, Dhodapkar explained how food services have changed – contactless service in cafeterias, avoiding cold food, washing utensils at the right temperature, and providing kitchen employees with wristbands to indicate they are medically certified.
Everyone agreed that while N95 masks are required primarily only for healthcare workers, all workers in all industries need to wear 2-/3-ply masks, for which strict enforcement will be necessary.
Moderator Saji Sebastian, VP- Corporate Services, Network18 Media & Investments, had the last word when he said: “Some doors must always be kept open”. He meant physical doors to avoid contact with hands, but perhaps he also meant a constant line of communication between the leadership and employees to strengthen a collective commitment to fighting Covid and keeping industries functioning.