The recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the United States serves as a reminder that the global pandemic continues to be a challenge for the world and our company. As the impacts of the pandemic continue to evolve, 3M remains focused on our priorities of employee and public safety.
At our manufacturing facilities, where dedicated essential workers continue to power our pandemic response, this has meant remaining diligent and adhering to health and safety protocols to help mitigate the risk of transmission. 3M site leadership teams are collaborating with their local communities, Disease Prevention Coordinators and public health authorities around the world—such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)—to continuously evaluate and reinforce safe operating practices.
Active monitoring of COVID-19’s presence in the U.S. has allowed 3M to adapt our protective measures for employee safety as needed—building upon existing protocols like physical distancing, heightened personal hygiene practices, disinfection cleanings, and additional trainings, as well as 3M’s recommended and encouraged use of face coverings in the workplace. The company has also gained insights from the successful experiences of the initially impacted facilities below.
Located in the community with Kentucky’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the 3M Cynthiana plant was quick to institute enhanced safety measures for its workers. With contact tracing and self-monitoring of symptoms outside the facility and new physical distancing protocols, enhanced disinfection and sanitation cleanings, and increased personal protective equipment (PPE) use inside its walls, Cynthiana could safely prioritize the production of much-needed package protection tape. 3M Cynthiana leaders were able to ramp down production of some office supplies out of an abundance of caution and infrastructure limitations for physical distancing.
When the surrounding county began posting one of the top infection rates for the state, 3M Guin ramped up protective protocols for its workers. Its goal was to increase employee safety while maintaining production of temporary and permanent transportation tapes—currently being used to help direct traffic at COVID-19 testing centers across the country. As with most facilities, Guin used a phased implementation of new safety protocols. The first phase included increased education and training programs as well as symptom monitoring, enhanced cleanings, gathering of PPE supplies and preparation of facility infrastructure for more stringent measures. This preparation ultimately helped the facility escalate its protocols to include appropriate physical distancing for all workstations and break areas as well as work from alternate locations. Guin’s focus on education and appropriate spacing has allowed it to maintain an attendance rate of 96% during the pandemic.
3M Cordova, located near the Quad Cities area of Illinois and Iowa, saw greater incidences of COVID-19 in its region than other communities in the state. As a producer of adhesives for various medical supplies, including bandages and tapes, it was necessary for the facility to continue its operations for the benefit of the general public, but Cordova also performs an essential health service for 3M employees across the country—making hand sanitizer for use in 3M manufacturing facilities. Following the same phased approach as the Guin facility, Cordova has employed new safety protocols on-site, including regular staff communication and education, symptom screenings, preventative hygiene measures and stringent physical distancing practices.
With case counts growing across the state, 3M Columbia is focused on employee safety and fulfilling its important role in the pandemic response. The facility manufactures electrical connectors used in the devices that determine appropriate fit for respirators as well as components that help to power the crucial supply of ventilators from a variety of companies. Columbia also manufactures medical diagnostic cards and biopharma filters, including the 3M™ Emphaze™ AEX Hybrid Purifier, which are currently being used by pharmaceutical companies in their development of potential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. To ensure the flow of these vital materials remains uninterrupted, the facility has increased and expanded cleaning procedures, implemented sanitary solutions for shared equipment and installed plexiglass barriers and new equipment to aid in on-site physical distancing—including the use of COBOTS, collaborative robots that can assist workers with tasks in tight spaces. A handful of employees also put in additional hours to produce and post on-site spacing reminders, draft take-home personal safety tips, seek and secure additional PPE supplies, and change the layout of break rooms and manufacturing cells to ensure appropriate physical distancing.
Just a few hours south, 3M Springfield is focused on the production of PPE components for 3M’s COVID-19 response, including hot melt adhesives for respirator cartridges, foam used in the nose pieces of respirators and masks, and adhesives used inside ventilators. Similar to Columbia, the team wanted to protect the production of these supplies and instituted a variety of measures to help mitigate potential on-site spread. Employees and leadership collaborated on the implementation of physical distancing, communications concerning the virus’ prevalence in the surrounding region, heightened hygiene and cleaning practices, and enhanced PPE usage. Quick adoption and adherence to these new protocols has allowed Springfield to maintain efficiency and support the supply chain for healthcare PPE.
With minimal existing production devoted to the COVID-19 response, 3M Hutchinson was able to step up and manufacture products for 3M facilities who were unable to operate as efficiently in the pandemic. It also had bandwidth to send some employees to work at other sites, supporting 3M’s increased respirator production. Meanwhile, the facility continued production of its usual product lines, including ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape, for which demand has recently spiked—likely due to the popularity of home improvement projects during quarantine.
To implement some of the necessary production floor changes, Hutchinson had to perform in-depth trainings. Normally these trainings would be side-by-side due to noise levels from equipment, but to address appropriate physical distancing and worker safety, the facility leveraged 3MTM PELTORTM headsets equipped with cameras, as well as laser pointers and digital tablets. Based on the success of these technology-supported trainings, Hutchinson plans to continue using this equipment post-pandemic. To help mitigate a potential spread of COVID-19 cases, facility leadership, along with a team of occupational nurses, industrial hygiene engineers and human resources supervisors, has conducted in-depth education sessions and connected with more than 1,300 employees in order to address their needs and concerns. In additional to physical distancing practices, Hutchinson has implemented a number of safety protocols, including robust on-site cleaning, temperature scanning upon entry, enhanced PPE use, self-monitoring for symptoms and virtual gatherings to communicate important updates.
3M’s proactive focus on health and safety measures is helping to protect our essential production workers and advancing our crucial role in the pandemic response. We are grateful for the efforts of our colleagues in support the public health response, and as cases of the virus continue to grow in the U.S., we will continue to take actions that help protect their well-being and ultimately support the work of health care professionals on the front lines.