HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – After roughly six weeks off, workers at Toyota’s engine plant in Huntsville were tentatively expected to return to work on May 4th, but Toyota officials have since rescheduled to May 11.
Toyota says they’ve examined every single process inside the plant and have made adjustments to best protect their employees.
Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong joined by Chamber of Commerce President Chip Cherry toured the plant to se the upgrades for themselves.
“Plexiglass is being utilized everywhere. From where breaks take place to where they are putting together 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines,” said Strong.
Employees will see plenty of hand sanitizer at frequently touched areas along with social distancing stickers on the floor. However the safety measures start at the front gate. Employees will take a daily survey on their phones before getting their temperatures taken.
“The key priority is how do we give our team members the comfort that they can return to work safely,” said Dave Finch, the President of Toyota Alabama.
Assuming Toyota feels they have the green light by May 11, even then the floodgates will not open. Production will be gradual and the company plans on spending time reacquainting workers with their jobs, especially the new measures forced by COVID-19.
“We’ve had to stagger the shifts by line. By model that we make. Within certain lines, we’ve staggered them as well,” said Finch.
The plant has been mostly empty since operations shuttered. Toyota didn’t just use the time to implement safety procedures. They used their materials to make face masks for front line workers and schools while also printing and assembling face shields for workers.
Toyota says they have shared ideas with other facilities across the country, including their competitors. Still, local leaders and businesses alike are stressing the importance of taking COVID-19 seriously.
“All it takes is one asymptomatic person to kind of start that wave running through the community,” said Chip Cherry, the President of Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
Toyota employs around 1,400 workers at engine manufacturing plant. Toyota paid employees for three weeks during the shutdown, but after 4 weeks employees did have to file for unemployment. Some full-time employees are back to work, but working limited days.