Together we are strong. And we are happy to take on major tasks.
The protection of our employees is very important to us.
The first case of Covid-19 was reported by an employee as early as the end of February 2020 at Rheinmetall Automotive's location in Neckarsulm (Germany). In other words, even before the acute developments in Ischgl/South Tyrol came to a head, plant management and the crisis team were obliged to act quickly.
Thomas Zaborowski, Senior Vice President Division Hardparts at Rheinmetall Automotive in Neckarsulm (Germany), is head of the CAT crisis team and describes the challenges the location faced from one day to the next and the measures taken to prevent the virus from spreading and to provide the best possible protection for employees.
Of course we were all a bit shocked at the location when the health authority informed us late on a Friday afternoon that an employee had tested positive for Covid-19. We were practically the first case in our region. In other words, there was no standardised procedure in place at the time for how to respond and there was a great deal of uncertainty on all sides. We just knew that we had to act quickly. We immediately set up a crisis team, the CAT = Corona Action Team, consisting of location management, HR, occupational safety, building management and employee representatives, and acted straightaway. Firstly, we identified the people who had been in contact with the sick individual and reported this to the health authority. This group of people then had to go into quarantine at home. Secondly, as a precautionary measure, we closed the plant over the weekend and carried out extensive disinfection measures. All break rooms, meeting points, vending machines, washrooms, toilets, modules for time recording, lift doors and door handles of main doors were disinfected. It was far from easy to convince the cleaning company to carry out these measures, but using the necessary protective equipment everything worked out. Disinfectant dispensers were also set up, the canteen and kiosks closed and the water dispensers disused. However, it was also very important that we informed our employees at the location quickly and transparently about the situation and the measures taken in order to prevent rumours and reduce worries. A big well done at this point to all involved – this was a superb team effort from everyone.
Fortunately, our measures have worked. We managed to restart production after the weekend, a plant closure was not necessary or ordered by the authorities. But of course, the safety of the employees at the location has always been our top priority. For example, business trips and customer visits to the factory were banned, the option of mobile work/working from home was extended and distancing regulations were introduced. Every day, the CAT team coordinated its efforts, reassessed the situation and took appropriate action. Thanks to the rapid and consistent implementation of the measures and the quarantine of the affected contact persons required by the health authorities, it was possible to prevent the virus from spreading at the location. In the end, 5 cases of coronavirus remained at the location in total. All the patients have now recovered and are in good health again. This is of course the most important and best news.
It was very important to explain the situation quickly, extensively and openly to our employees. We used all the channels available to us here – direct personal information from superiors to their employees, notices, email, intranet, employee app – to inform the workforce and inform them about the action taken.
In addition, we promptly set up a telephone hotline at our first aid centre and created FAQs with answers to important questions.
We in Neckarsulm were able to show that the work of the Corona Action Team has succeeded. No further infections occurred at the location. If local teams act quickly and in a coordinated manner, in close consultation with corporate security and health authorities, further infections can be prevented or contained. At the beginning of the pandemic, our experience made us a sought-after contact for our colleagues from other German and foreign plants and we were able to help out with disinfectants, for example. We ourselves were also in close contact with our locations in China. Although there were no cases there, we looked at what was done on site in terms of precautions and were able to order masks, for example.
However, Rheinmetall as a whole has responded very quickly to this situation and has set up local CAT teams at all its locations worldwide, following our example, to make sure every plant is prepared. The local CATs then make the decisions on site regarding the necessary measures considering the local conditions and implement them independently. Finally, the situation varies greatly from country to country and from location to location, both in terms of current infection rates and regulatory requirements.
What does Rheinmetall do beyond this?
Whether protective equipment, production of disinfectants or face shields – we do what we can. Below is an overview of some of our initiatives.