TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — After more than two months off the job, some auto workers at the General Motors plant in Tonawanda returned back to work Monday.
In April, an executive order signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo deemed auto workers essential, but GM employees say it took a while to get the plant ready to open.
"All of our efforts really started when we shut down," said Jim Glynn, the Vice President of workplace safety for GM.
GM officials say they've studied guidelines by the CDC, the World Health Organization as well as research on the virus, and how the virus lives on various surfaces.
"That all went into creating our safety protocol," he said.
Glynn says this morning, before employees entered the buildings, their temperatures were checked. Employees then answer various screening questions regarding COVID-19.
"We have visual cues reminding people what six feet feels like," he said. "We're social beings and we want to hug and shake hands. We need the new normal about what six feet feels like."
Employees are then given a mask and safety goggles upon entering the building.
UAW Local 774 President J.R. Baker says everyone wears gloves.
"This is the new normal," Baker said. "We don't know how long it's going to be. I just pray everyone is safe."
There are hand washing stations and hand sanitizing stations throughout the facility. Baker says employees are coming back in intervals.
"Anxiety is still high," he said. "We don't know what we're facing with this."
Baker says some of the plants do not have air conditioning, so it gets hot with the mask, but it's today's reality.
"We're having some challenges with glasses fogging up, but for everyone's safety that's what we're doing," he said. "Right now we're just trying to keep everyone safe. This is the beginning of a tough battle."
Glynn says in the case of an employee getting sick there are medical personnel on site. If an employee is not feeling well, he or she should not come into work.
If an employee gets sick on the job, GM says there are contract tracers in place to notify those who have been around the infected individual and each will isolate for 14 days.