A number of major carmakers are reportedly considering resuming production in factories across Europe as shutdowns imposed following the coronavirus outbreak start to come to an end.

Carmakers gearing up for similar re-starts in their UK factories would be well advised to consider the UK Government’s sector guidance on social distancing in the workplace during coronavirus before turning on the production lines full throttle.

There is no legal ban on carmakers re-opening factory gates.  The government’s guidance (available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/social-distancing-in-the-workplace-during-coronavirus-covid-19-sector-guidance#manufacturing-and-processing-businesses) states that manufacturing can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible.

The guidance goes on to set out a number of mitigating actions manufacturers should take, including:

1. Side-by-side working: Staff should work side-by-side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face if possible.

2. More cleaning: Manufacturers should increase the frequency of cleaning procedures, pausing production in the day if necessary for cleaning staff to wipe down workstations with disinfectant.

3. Shift teams: Manufacturers should assign staff to the sameshift teams to limit social interaction.

4. Staggered breaks: Manufacturers should consider arrangements such as staggered break times so that staff can continue to practice social distancing when taking breaks.

5.Handwashing: Manufacturers should tell all staff that they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more at the beginning and end of every break, when they arrive at work and before they leave.

Some carmakers are reportedly considering additional steps, including requiring workers to come to the factory already in their overalls, to avoid crowding the changing rooms.

It’s not too early for carmakers to start to plan for a return to business, and the government guidance offers some of the tools and tactics the industry will need to adopt.