Refractories customers in the steel, aluminium, copper, glass, chemicals, energy, waste management, and pulp & paper industries are directly responsible for supplying the primary materials used to produce critically important items during a global pandemic.
A few examples include hospital beds, ambulances, respirators, face masks, thermometers, and other medical supplies, such as sterile tools, packaging, and equipment. Temporary hospital sites could not be constructed without cement, or aluminium poles to erect tents. The electrical power provided is in many cases generated through refractory consuming combustion processes.
“Even our global food supply is dependent upon refractories. All the cans, bottles, plastics, and paper we use to package, preserve, and transport food are derived from manufacturing processes that rely on refractories,” says the World Refractories Association (WRA).
“Refractories must be continuously produced because they are critical components in customers’ supply chains, the safety and well-being of industry employees is always the top priority. At all times, the goal of refractory manufactures and installers is to serve customers’ needs across all industries in the safest, most secure, and compliant manner possible.”
Since the earliest concerns about the threat of COVID-19, WRA member companies around the globe have proactively instituted measures to help keep workers healthy and lessen the potential spread of the virus. This includes abiding by all recommendations and directives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and all national, regional, and local organizations that have issued guidelines in response to COVID-19.
WRA member companies in Europe, Asia, and the Americas report taking comprehensive and similar steps within their respective organizations. Besides strict compliance with the legal requirements of each country, these measures also closely reflect recommendations of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.
Examples of WRA members’ COVID-19 response include, but are not limited to:
Planning, Communication, and Work
- Development and deployment of internal company COVID-19 Task Forces and/or preparedness and response plans
- Ongoing communications and frequent updates by company leaders to all employees regarding COVID-19 directives and plans
- Cancellation of business travel and events
- Work from home provisions for all employees who can perform their jobs remotely
- IT support for those working at home
Essential Plant Operations
- Encouragement of employees not to report to work if they feel ill and/or believe they may have COVID-19 symptoms; call to take temperature already at home
- Employees who are in contact with people affected by COVID-19 are to stay at home
- Single points of entry and daily temperature measurements at plant gates
- Limitations on visitors and provisions for minimal interaction during activities such as loading
- Strict guidelines for truck drivers
- Promotion and implementation of all hygiene and infection control best practices, (e.g., handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, etc.)
- Flex-shifts and/or hours for on-site employees, to ensure social distancing, and/or avoid peak transportation commuting
- Work positions kept at least two meters apart for production, warehouses, and other critical functions
- Avoidance of any meetings in groups , and at a two-meter distance, if necessary; encouragement to use digital alternatives for meetings
- Cleaning of sites, with common areas and entry points cleaned and disinfected up to every two hours
- Some companies have also instituted mandatory wearing of masks for all workers, weekly doctor visits or telemedicine for consultations and routine checks, and construction of physical barriers (such as plexiglass guards) at points of critical interaction.