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As carmakers restart factories, they look at steps to protect workers from COVID-19

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There are about 1,500 workers on a typical shift in a car factory, according to one industry analyst. Scott Olson/Getty Images

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The auto industry is starting to reopen, and as factories prepare for manufacturing to rev up again, companies say they are taking steps to try to keep workers safe from getting or spreading COVID-19.

About 30,000 parts go into manufacturing a vehicle, and there are about 1,500 workers on a typical shift, according to Kristin Dziczek with the Center for Automotive Research. So, as factories reopen, companies are going to have to take special precautions to keep employees apart.

Dziczek says that might mean changing the way two workers install seat belts. “They may redesign that job, so that somebody is installing the right seat belt anchor inside the car while someone else is doing something on the left side of the vehicle, on the outside,” she said.

Among the steps General Motors says it will take: providing additional protective gear and taking workers’ temperatures when they arrive. Arthur Wheaton, with the Worker Institute at Cornell, says that in order to administer all those screenings, companies need to make adjustments.

“You may have some staggered start and stop times, you may have people arriving at different intervals or different places and they may have more than one entrance,” Wheaton said.

If the companies want to keep manufacturing, they have to make these changes. Not manufacturing is costing the car companies billions.

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