The directorate industrial safety & health of Tamil Nadu has submitted its report to the Madras high court on uniform technical guidelines to enhance the practice of social distancing in the assembly lines of the passenger car manufacturing factories, recommending slowing down of conveyor speed, relocation of jobs to different stations and suitable fencing inside the car units so as to avoid close contact between the workers, among others, in the wake of current pandemic situation.
The directorate was asked by the high court to inspect all other car companies in Tamil Nadu and suggest uniform social distancing norms for automobile makers, in the course of hearing of the case filed by Renualt-Nissan workers’ union against the management on the issue of lack of Covid-related social distancing norms, while conducting operations in the lock-down period.
The report, reviewed by FE, said that in order to avoid overlapping of workers at the working stations of the assembly lines, reduction of conveyor speed or relocation of jobs to different stations or sub-assembly areas shall be implemented.
The directorate industrial safety & health team had re-visited the Renault-Nissan unit and also visited the Hyundai and Ford factories, to review the safety norms practised by the individual companies, before preparing the report.
The report said that to maintain social distancing in the assembly lines, new work stations could be created for reducing number of jobs per station and the idle work stations may be utilised for this purpose.
The number of jobs performed in the assembly lines will have to be reduced by diverting some jobs to sub-assembly areas and the pre-assembled modules may be introduced in the assembly lines. Such assembly areas may be located inside the factory by avoiding overcrowding of the workers.
The work stations wherein more than two workers are engaged shall be converted into two-person work station by proper reallocation of jobs.
In order to maintain social distancing at each station, the location of jobs and sequence of such jobs shall be adjusted suitably and the proximity of the persons shall be avoided at any point of time. All the workers engaged in the assembly line shall be provided with suitable face shields to ensure their safety and and health at the workplace.
The report emphasised that wherever required, suitable fencing (like poly vinyl, paperboard, etc) shall be provided inside the car units as to avoid close contact between the workers and to safeguard against the spread of droplets released by cough and sneezing. It said that the overlapping of workers due to job carryover could be avoided by providing extra time by stopover of the then and there. Conveyor pull chord switch/station stopper arrangement may be provided for this purpose while underlining the critical aspect that all the workers engage in the assembly lines shall be vaccinated at the earliest.
When the court took up the matter on Monday, the counsel for Renault-Nissan told the court that the company accepts all the recommendations and the required changes will be implemented by July 1. However, the company’s counsel said it wants revocation of the order on the maintenance of 3:1 empty pitch at the conveyor line since the inspection also stated that it does not serve the social distancing purpose.
The report on the inspection at Renault-Nissan plant on the ineffectiveness of the 3:1 empty pitch has pointed out that though an empty space was available in between the moving units, the work at each station remains the same.
The non-availability of sufficient time in some stations leads to the carryover of the unfinished job to the next station and causes overlapping. It further said proper work study has to be conducted by the management at these locations and depending up on the time and motion studies, the relevant jobs may be relocated to other stations or sufficient timing may be provided to avoid overlapping.
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