This dedicated COVID-19 manufacturing guidance page has been created to serve as a one-stop shop for all things manufacturing. Here you will find guidance for operating amidst the pandemic, additional resources, calls to action from government and industry, as well as the latest government guidelines.
This page was updated on 28 May 2020.
Should a manufacturer stay open?
On April 8, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma clarified in his letter to the industry that there is no restriction on manufacturing continuing during the COVID-19 outbreak. On May 10th, the Prime Minister also reiterated that anyone who could not work from home for example those in the manufacturing and construction sector were encouraged to now go to work. To support manufacturers work safely during the pandemic, the government released new guidance on the 11 May. See the guidance here.
However, manufacturers should take the below into consideration:
- If your business has customer demand for product (the factory is not manufacturing for stock), then it should remain open.
- If there is no demand, production should stop
- If there is limited demand, manufacturers can consider bringing forward the annual maintenance shutdown periods to ensure manufacturing at full capacity once the outbreak is over
Guidance for manufacturers who are operational
Businesses must carry out an appropriate Covid-19 risk assessment, just as with other H&S related topics. This must be done in consultation with unions or workers. You should share the risk assessment with your employees. More information on risk assessments can be found through the government's "Working Safely during coronavirus" guidance. Here, employers can also download a notice to display they have complied with the guidance in the workplace. Centre for Assessment's (CfA) specialist health & safety coaches have developed a Covid-19 Back to Work Risk Assessment Template and accompanying guidance document, which are free to download on the CfA website.
Government guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to H&S, employment or equalities. Businesses must continue to comply with existing obligations including those relating to individuals with vulnerable characteristics.
- Anyone who can, should work from home*. New guidance was released on the 11th May on who should go into work. Of course, workers on a production line cannot take their work home. In some cases, workers are in close proximity for long periods of time. For these reasons, precautions must be taken to prevent the spread of virus as far as possible.
- Visitors to the factory should be limited. Minimise contact at goods in and goods out. It is preferable if delivery drivers sign for the goods and do not enter the building. If possible, create a schedule for essential services and visitors in order to space out visitors to site and time them to be carried out when fewest people are at work. Minimise contact with delivery drivers and have clear signage for drop off and collection areas and procedures.
- Management must re-iterate their employees’ responsibility to look after their own health as per the Government advice.
- Can you run your operating environment ensuring that all staff can always work whilst also maintaining social isolation guidelines – maintaining a 2m minimum separation from colleagues and others , including time on the shop floor, in recreation areas, bathrooms, in briefing meetings and when entering and exiting the premises?
- Can you operate whilst also ensuring staff can take all relevant precautionary measures, including steps such as frequent handwashing, and can you provide relevant additional PPE equipment such as gloves where necessary?
When applying these measures can you also operate safely and maintain the high standards necessary for usual operation?
- Can your staff travel to and from work safely and in a manner that allows suitable space for social distancing?
- Have you ensured that all staff who can work from home are doing so?
Should you choose to remain open, we advise that you not take disciplinary action against members of staff who are unable to attend.
*Read our guide to remote working for key areas to consider when switching your workforce to remote working.
Cleaning and Hygiene practices
- Enforce hand washing upon entering and leaving the building
- Issue hand sanitiser (if available)
- Provide facilities to change clothes to avoid contamination upon entering and leaving the building
- Sanitise communal areas and common touchpoints e.g door handles, light switches, handrails
- Clean touch screens regularly or when there is a change of operator
- Don’t allow personal mobile phones on the shop floor
- Strictly enforce no eating or drinking on the shop floor
- Consider cleansing goods in
- Brief staff on behavioural expectations
- Monitor staff compliance with required behaviours
If you are cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19 then refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings.
On May 11th, the government released new guidance on workforce cleaning. See here for details.
Refer to the Public Health England COVID-19 guidance here.
Public health posters, leaflets and other materials are also available.
Refer to the World Health Organisation (WHO) advice.
Staff health and Statutory Sick Pay (SPP)
To ensure your staff's health and safety, please see relevant advice and guidance on our dedicated page on "Supporting your employees". Here, you can also find details of the Statutory Sick Pay guidance released by government.
Testing is also now available for anyone exhibiting symptoms who cannot work from home (including anyone in their household exhibiting symptoms). More details on the testing process can be seen here.
Shift and working patterns
- Provide more regular breaks for workers to wash their hands more regularly
- Stagger breaks so that fewer people are in the communal areas at one time. Move seats and tables further apart
- Use other rooms e.g. meeting rooms as break areas
- Reconfigure seating so that people can maintain distance
- Encourage employees to stay on site during working hours
- Use safe outside areas where possible
- If feasible reduce the number of people per shift and add an extra shift. If there are enough staff to have an extra shift as an ‘off shift’ this would mean that sickness can be covered
- Extend the time between shifts. Allow the previous shift to leave before the next shift arrives to minimise contact
- Stagger work start and finish times
- Allow extra time per shift for cleaning both during and at the end of a shift
- Do not share tools or pens or handheld devices. Allocate tools to individuals. If they must be shared between shifts, ensure that they are cleaned between shifts
- Avoid having staff facing face-to-face where possible and opt for working side by side or facing away from each other
Manufacturers are further advised to consult the new guidance which has been released here.
- Space out processes if possible. Clear congested areas, especially areas with redundant machines, stock, boxes etc to make space.
- Section off areas to minimise the number of people in contact with each other. Make clear walkways / routes to avoid congestion. Teams working in these areas should also be kept apart if possible, including having designated, separate washing and break facilities, to further limit spread of the virus.
- Slow down the line or machine to allow more space between workers
- Reduce handling wherever possible
Make walkways one way. Designate staircases as up or down routes, if more than one staircase is available.
Where it is not possible to adhere to the social distancing guidelines, consider whether that activity needs to continue. If yes, then take further mitigating actions:
- Minimise and limit the activity duration.
- Use screens or barriers to separate people
- Use back to back or side to side working, rather than directly opposite, where possible
- Reduce the number of people that come into contact by partnering or determining fixed teams who do not come into contact with others.
- If people must work face to face with a larger group of people, then assess whether the activity can go ahead safely.
- Identify areas where people have to directly pass things to each other, for example, job information, spare parts, samples, raw materials, and find ways to remove direct contact, such as through the use of drop-off points or transfer zones.
Our factsheet can also help you optimise your factory layout.
Manufacturers are further advised to consult the new guidance which has been released here.
- Refer to your skills matrix (or if you don’t have one, this may be the time to start making one, however basic).
- Make sure that shifts are staffed with multi-skilled workers so that all processes can be covered in the case of sickness.
- Determine which skills are critical and make sure that those workers are on separate shifts. Start training in these areas if possible.
Which lines should be kept running?
Should staffing levels mean that you have to reduce production you will have to decide which lines to keep running or which products to keep producing. However, it is important to remember to not produce for stock. If there is no demand, production should stop. Consider the following factors:
- Are any products critical to the management of Covid-19?
- Which products do you foresee continuing to sell or increasing in sales and which do you foresee dropping?
- Can you keep your key customers supplied? (i.e customers that you cannot afford to lose)
- Which products or lines are the most profitable?
- What is the forecast for your raw materials? Will your supply chain be affected?
- Which lines are ‘easiest’ to run or staff can easily be re-trained for? Running these lines or making these products will offer flexibility when workers are off sick
Review contracts with customers in case of penalty clauses. This may determine your production schedule if the factory is short-staffed.
Make full use of any automation available to you. E.g. packing and wrapping machines, remote programming of machines to minimise handling.
Made Smarter has also released a guide on maintaining business continuity during the pandemic through the use of digital technologies.
- Kepp employees up to date. Remember to also share the risk assessment with them and ensure ongoing consultation
- Keep suppliers up to date. Issue a forecast supply requirement e.g. 2 months ahead
- Keep customers up to date. Inform them if you foresee a drop in production e.g. due to supply or sickness. Provided an estimated timescale. Also inform them if you are able to continue production as usual.
Especially in the case of a shutdown for cleaning or total factory shutdown.
- Regular communication of company strategy and plans is key. Offer guidelines for illness and inform employees of their contractual rights regarding sick pay
- Put up H&S notices for employees with government guidelines
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Calls to Action
Latest Government Guidance
- Exporting personal protective equipment during coronavirus (COVID-19): Goods exported from the European Union after midnight on Monday 25 May 2020 will no longer require an export authorisation. Read more here (28th May).
- Funding and manufacturing boost for UK vaccine programme. Read more here (17th May).
- Guidance for industry and manufactures: COVID-19 tests and testing kits. Read more here (13th May).
- Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses during the Coronavirus. Read more here (11th May).
- New reagent available to support global diagnostic testing of coronavirus (COVID-19). Read more here. (6th May).
- Government has added a link to a new dedicated Yellow Card coronavirus website for reporting any incidents involving medical equipment relating to COVID-19 treatment (5th May). Read more here.
- Notification of contingent liability: Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System Project. Read more here (29th April).
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): export control process. Updated to reflect new EU regulation and added to list of other territories. Read more here (26th April).
- Exceptional GMP flexibilities for medicines manufacturers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read more here (22nd April).
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): ventilator supply specification - (14th April).
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): personal protective equipment (PPE) hub. View here (10th April).
- Government sets out plan for national effort on PPE - Press Release (10th April).
- Notice to exporters 2020/10: processing licence applications during coronavirus (COVID-19). Read more here (9th April).
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): how laboratories can support the testing programme. Read more here (9th April).
- Offer coronavirus (COVID-19) support from your business. Read more here.
- Help the government increase coronavirus (COVID-19) testing capacity. Read more here (8th April).
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): letter to the manufacturing sector from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma. Read here (8th April).
- Advice for employers on social distancing during coronavirus (COVID-19) - Manufacturing and processing businesses. Read more here (7th April).
- Guidance for manufacturers and Good Practice (GxP) laboratories on exceptional flexibilities for maintenance and calibration during the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. Read more here (7th April).
- Technical Specifications for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). View here (6th April).
- Forms for organisations that can manufacture and supply testing consumables, equipment and laboratory PPE as part of the coronavirus (COVID-19) response can be found here (3rd April).
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): export control process. Guidance can be seen here (2nd April).
- COVID-19: Call for rapid sanitising technology for ambulances. More information here (2nd April).
- Specification for Rapidly Manufactured CPAP System to be used during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read more here (29th March).
- Government to ease regulations to ensure hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment reaches NHS staff quickly, read more here (28th March).
- Specification for ventilators to be used in UK hospitals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read more here (26th March).
- Guidance for Manufacturers Specials licence holders on ‘packing down’ medicines during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read more here (25th March).
- How to place a Coronavirus (COVID-19) test kit on the market. Read more here (25th March).
All guidance to Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on coronavirus (COVID-19), including Clinical trials, Inspections, Medical devices, Medicines and COVID-19, Medicines regulation can be found here (19th March).
The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit are entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.