We are grateful that we here at TOM BIHN have not been directly impacted by COVID-19. Right now, our thoughts are with our community, our city, this country and the world; we are doing everything we can think of to do our part to stay healthy.
Our factory is still at work; we're manufacturing non-medical grade face masks for healthcare professionals due to the dire lack of personal protective equipment.
Our focus since late February has been on various preventative measures:
- Multiple hand washing demonstrations (20 seconds! Hum Happy Birthday twice! Scrub thoroughly all over the hands!)
- Additional precautions (pressing buttons with knuckles, not touching our faces, etc.) + additional guidance from the CDC, translated into each of the languages we speak.
- Purchase of additional IQ Air filtration units.
- Modifications made to our doors so they can be opened with feet, or at least without needing to use hands.
- Lots of hand sanitizer everywhere for all of us to use.
- We converted our bathroom and kitchen faucets to be the touchless variety.
- Multiple daily disinfecting wipe-downs of commonly touched surfaces.
- Each employee has been given a box of Kleenex and a canister of disinfecting wipes for their work area.
- On 02/28 we issued three additional days of PTO to each employee for 2020. This means each employee has a total of 18 to 23 days of PTO in 2020, depending on tenure.
- Employees experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other illness or who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-29 are required to stay home for two weeks of paid sick leave.
- Lunch breaks are staggered to reduce groupings of people at work.
- Thermometers purchased and provided to each employee who did not own one.
- Work spaces separated 10 - 12 feet apart.
- Cardboard sewing station dividers installed between each workstation.
- The temperature of each employee is checked at the beginning and again at the end of each day.
- Employees are required to wash hands upon entering the factory; we also wash our hands every two hours.
- We're installing four permanent additional handwashing stations inside and outside of the bathrooms in the factory.
- We are all wearing masks when we're at work at the factory as a precaution.
Our main focus has been on washing our hands often and utilizing the proper technique for washing hands. COVID-19 is said by experts to be transmitted by human-to-human contact; hand washing is the #1 thing all of us can do in an effort to prevent its spread.
As per our usual policy, any employee who is feeling ill is asked to stay home. Any employee who wants to stay home for any reason can.
In addition to the above, we elected to take additional and purely precautionary measures, such as instituting a "bag hold" of 9 days: once bags are finished in our factory, we hold them for 9 days in our warehouse before they are shipped. In instances when it has been necessary to ship an order before that 9 days, we have thoroughly sprayed the bag with isopropyl alcohol or calculated the warehouse time + time-in-transit so that it achieves the 9 day hold. Our shipping crew wear masks and gloves while shipping. We have also implemented some professionally guided efforts to further sanitize.
Recommendations and guidelines are evolving; we are following King County (Seattle) recommendations, as well as those of the CDC, and we're also looking to Taiwan's efforts for inspiration. We're thinking about this a lot: we want to be prepared and we want to do our part. It's important for us to take responsibility, to do what we can, to try our best to think "If I imagine it's next week, what do I wish I would have thought of this week?"
Finally, we'd like to share this excerpt from a Seattle Times article. This is exactly why we feel we must take these efforts:
"Even if you’re not in a vulnerable group, following all of these guidelines, known as non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), helps to protect those who are. According to Baseman, evidence from prior outbreaks suggests that “any one community-level mitigation strategy can’t work 100% by itself, but … the more layers of those NPIs that you institute, the more likely you are to have a successful community mitigation response.”
She likens the strategy to a stack of Swiss cheese slices. “If you have an individual piece of Swiss cheese it has holes in it,” she said, “but if you have a stack of Swiss cheese pieces on top of each other, then you’ve got a pretty good barrier.”
When people take precautions to limit their own exposure to COVID-19, she said, “they’re protecting everybody else that they may be exposed to later, in addition to themselves.” - Katie Ross of Seattle's Public Health, excerpted from this Seattle Times article