LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Even as other manufacturers set in for extended breaks during the coronavirus outbreak, GE Appliances is pressing ahead with a plan to restart production at Louisville’s Appliance Park on Monday and has implemented a number of safety protocols including mandatory temperature screenings for workers entering the complex and “plastic dividers” placed between workers on assembly lines.
GE Appliances, a unit of China-based Haier, outlined the new measures in a letter to Appliance Park employees on Thursday.
“The adjustments we’ve made to operations have been implemented to comply with state orders and CDC hygiene and social distancing guidelines,” GE Appliances said in the letter to employees. “As we face this unprecedented crisis together, we will continue to focus on the health and well-being and safety of our employees, customers, and owners.”
The park includes five factories in separate buildings and churns out household appliances such as dishwashers, washers and dryers and refrigerators. About 3,800 people work in the factories and there has not been a confirmed COVID-19 among the workforce.
Despite the new measures, some workers say the safest course of action would be a prolonged shutdown of the complex.
“With all other major factories closed and remaining closed, it is unfair that the management at (GE Appliances) is putting the almighty dollar over the health of over 3,600 hourly workers. No one is buying appliances right now. To say we are safe is laughable. They simply do not care,” said GE Appliances worker James Montgomery.
“We still do not feel safe, despite the changes being made at Appliance Park. Not at all. Especially since it has been noted that the virus can live on plastic, metals, and cardboard items for days. We touch these items thousands of times a day,” line worker Aaron Little said.
GE Appliances did not immediately comment on Thursday evening.
The new measures outlined in the letter to employees include:
- Workspaces have been “adjusted” to maintain the recommended six-foot “social distancing” perimeter. But where that’s not practical, “plastic dividers” have been installed between workspaces and “additional supplies will be provided to employees.”
- Enhanced cleaning of the complex, including “addition of portable hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations to the factory floor.”
- Some entrances have been closed.
- All employees -- “front office, salaried, production, contractors and delivery drivers” -- must submit to a “quick” six-second temperature screen to ensure they’re not running a fever.
GE stopped all production at Appliance Park this week for a cleaning in response to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Appliance manufacturing falls under the category of "essential" businesses that are allowed to remain open under Gov. Andy Beshear's executive order earlier this week.
In a letter to Beshear dated Thursday, Little, the GE Appliances worker, pleaded with the governor to change that.
"If it means lives will be spared, we are all ready to sacrifice and self-quarantine while not at work to make that happen," Little wrote to Beshear.