Coronavirus and Factory Safety

Automation increases factory safety. But what about the coronavirus outbreak? Robots won’t be affected by respiratory disease, but could they unwittingly spread the virus? Should consumers be worrying about items shipped from China or Italy?

Quick answer: no.

In factories

The new coronavirus is transmitted through droplets resulting from a cough or a sneeze. Typically, it requires physical proximity: you need to be within six feet of an infected person to be exposed.

Plenty of factories have people working within six feet of one another. However, many factories also have strict hygiene policies. If yours doesn’t, check out this example. It’s pretty standard, and it can definitely limit the spread of coronavirus.

Remind workers who touch workpieces not to touch their eyes or noses. “Wash your hands and keep your hands off your face” covers the most important advice to limit contagion.

The other important piece of advice: don’t go to work if you’re sick. Go to the doctor instead. Realistically, this is only useful advice if you offer paid sick leave and good health insurance. Otherwise, workers will feel that they can’t afford to take the time off.

Along the supply chain

But what about the metal surfaces, the machines, the conveyor belts, or the products themselves? Should truck drivers, warehouse workers, retail staff, or consumers worry about the virus being spread by inanimate objects?

This is not a wild idea. Smallpox-infected clothing was implicated in the spread of that infection before it was eradicated. But smallpox could live at room temperature on fabrics for two to three weeks. That was long enough for travelers to reach their homes, carrying smallpox, and visit all their neighbors. They unknowingly spread the contagion before they got sick themselves.

COVID-19 microbes can only live on surfaces for 9 days at most. The conditions under which products and packaging are stored and shipped are not designed to pamper the microbes, so they will probably live for a much shorter time.

There have been no cases of coronaviruses, including COVID-19, spreading through inanimate objects. They are very unlikely to reach anyone fast enough to infect people.

If there are any concerns, however, you can wipe down objects with disinfectant wipes and remove all possibility.

In use

Experts say that people who get infected while shopping will be infected by the salesperson, not the product. If your workers get to take home samples, their normal hygiene practices (see above) should keep them safe.

And keep perspective. During this flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been 32,000,000 – 45,000,000 cases of the flu in the U.S. and 18,000 – 46,000 deaths. And there’s a vaccine for that.

If you’re not worrying about coronavirus, but you are worrying about the health and welfare of your Rexroth electric drive and control systems, call us right away. We’re specialists in Rexroth electric motion control systems, and we can help.

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