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Here's how GM will practice social distancing at car factories once they reopen

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

GM’s factories in North America will reopen for the business of making cars on May 18, the automaker revealed in its first quarter earnings release on Wednesday.

But to pull that off with some form of success — as in not see workers get infected with COVID-19 after weeks of being protected at home — GM has to adhere to a new way of producing autos. GM appears to be on board with that plan, according to a 48-page internal document on new COVID-19 prevention measures.

“The health and safety of employees is our primary focus. The restart of production in North America (planned for later this month) will be guided by extensive health and safety planning. The protocol is based on learnings from our Asian operations (which were impacted first, and have restarted several weeks ago) in addition to guidelines from health authorities such as the CDC. Also we have a facility in Indiana (assembling ventilators) and one in Michigan (making masks and PPE) operating now, in which these protocols are active and working well. So those learnings form the basis of the auto production restart,” a GM spokesperson told Yahoo Finance via email.

QINGDAO, CHINA - APRIL 30, 2020 - A worker of SAIC GM Wuling Automobile Co., Ltd. Qingdao branch is producing automobile engines on the production line. Qingdao, Shandong Province, China, April 30, 2020. China's Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was 50.8% in April, according to the National Bureau of statistics.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Costfoto / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

The spokesperson shared with Yahoo Finance several of the social distancing-related steps (found in that 48-page doc) it will take as it tries to safely bring workers back to the production lines.

  • “Spacing out of shift start and end times, with specific protocols for facility entry & exit, to ensure proper spacing.

  • Employee self-assessment, and temperature scans at entry – with referral to facility health center with trained medical professionals if necessary.

  • Comprehensive awareness and education programs for our employees – with visual instructions inside work areas (lines on the floor, separating chairs, sanitation instructions and supplies).

  • Increased disinfection and cleaning of work areas, common spaces, tools, etc. – with time allotted within each work shift for cleaning.

  • Required face mask use and safety glasses by all facility personnel which provides primary protection against transmission of the virus regardless of job activity.”

GM shares rose 4% Wednesday as first quarter earnings topped estimates by a surprising 32 cents on the back of demand for pickup trucks. The company’s CFO Dhivya Suryadevara told reporters on a call it was seeing “green shoots” in China after re-opening for business. Suryadevara declined to provide full-year financial guidance owing to the lack of visibility into U.S. demand,.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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