When eight out of 950 employees at the Karmax heavy stamping plant in Milton, Ontario became sick with COVID-19 in early July due to community spread of the virus outside of the facility, General Manager Darren Stewart and his team turned to the Magna Smart Start playbook’s guidelines.
They immediately began contact tracing, identifying 11 employees who were close contacts of the sick workers and another 10 who were distant contacts – basically anybody on the crew.
“We did not have a significant outbreak,” Stewart said. “As of mid- August, one person out of eight is recovering and seven are back to work. Of the close and distant contacts, not one tested positive or showed symptoms. The playbook supports a safe and healthy workplace. We created the safest place in a global pandemic.”
We needed to get creative in the way we engage with each other, I just watched one employee write ‘All Good?’ on his white board and walk by his crew. They gave the ‘thumbs up’ sign. It’s such a simple idea, but it works.
Simply put, the Magna Smart Start playbook has been tested under the most trying circumstances of the pandemic – and it works.
In addition to rigorous contact tracing, the Karmax team came up with simple tools and steps to help maintain safety at work.
Small white boards and Sharpie pens were distributed to shop- floor employees to enable them to better communicate with each other over the noise of the assembly lines while wearing masks and social distancing. The boards are hung on workstations throughout the plant and disinfected regularly.
“We needed to get creative in the way we engage with each other,” Stewart explained. “I just watched one employee write ‘All Good?’ on his white board and walk by his crew. They gave the ‘thumbs up’ sign. It’s such a simple idea, but it works.”
“Communication bubbles,” featuring images of people talking, were painted on the shop floor instead of an “X” to mark six feet of distance.
“We’re trying to make things noticeably different to help people have a better sense of where to stand,” Stewart explained.
The mood of the employees is positive and upbeat as a result of the changes prompted by the Smart Start playbook.
“I approached the crisis by taking the playbook and making it a business system,” Stewart said. “There has been a lot of positive feedback from our employees. People realize this is the way we’re going to need to work until a vaccine is available. Basically, when you have a big facility like Karmax, it’s a microcosm of society. Our challenge is to manage and mitigate the risk.”