This week the SEAT Executive Committee approved a prevention plan to guarantee all employees a safe return to work after the summer holidays. With this plan, the company aims to protect the health of all workers in the event of a possible reactivation of the COVID-19 pandemic from September onwards.
SEAT’s plan is to carry out new PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 on its more than 15,000 employees in the last week of August, with a special focus on production line workers, temporary employment agency workers and suppliers. As when the tests were carried out in April, laboratories approved by the Ministry of Health and the Government of Catalonia will analyse them without any effect on public health activities. The company aims to test more than 90% of the nearly 8,600 workers in this group in the week before they return to work after their summer break on 31st August. The rest of the workers not linked to car manufacturing will be tested as they return to work. In a survey of employees, in which more than 5,000 people participated, 77% showed their willingness to undergo a new PCR and are willing to come to SEAT to have it done before the end of their holidays.
Moreover, every year SEAT offers its employees the chance to get a free flu vaccination at the company’s headquarters. On this occasion, the vaccination campaign begins in September, a few weeks earlier than in previous years, as recent studies have shown that some proteins in this vaccine also act effectively to reduce the symptoms of COVID-19 sufferers. Almost half of the participants in the employee survey have shown their intention of getting a flu vaccine.
SEAT Vice-president for Human Resources and Organization pointed out that “SEAT once again demonstrates that it is a committed company, with a plan that puts health protection at the forefront. With the new round of PCR tests and the other measures approved, we will protect more than 15,000 people and help health authorities to curb the pandemic.”
In addition, the company will maintain the specific health protocol it put in place when it resumed activity after the peak of the pandemic in April, which so far has prevented the spread of infection within its facilities. Among the measures provided for in this protocol are the distribution of facemasks for use throughout the working day, the adaptation of workstations to maintain a safety distance of one and a half metres, and the control of body temperature of all workers entering the company’s facilities.
Furthermore, employees have disinfectant gel and a health self-assessment app at their disposal to verify that they do not display symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, but if they do, to report them directly to the health services, which study and monitor every possible case of workers testing positive for COVID. The company has distributed information material on these measures, and periodically checks that they are correctly carried out in all work spaces.
Safe return to work
On 27 April, SEAT began to resume activity gradually to ensure that all necessary health and safety measures could be implemented. Since then, the company has managed to regain similar production levels to those at the beginning of the health crisis, with a daily car production volume of 1,900 units. Currently, the three production lines at the Martorell plant are in operation, where the SEAT Ibiza, Arona and Leon models and the CUPRA Leon and Audi A1 are manufactured, for which some extraordinary weekend shifts have also been scheduled. The SEAT Barcelona plant, where bodywork parts are produced, and the SEAT Componentes plant in El Prat de Llobregat, where gearboxes are assembled for both SEAT cars and other Volkswagen Group brands, are also operating normally.
“We’re very proud that in these almost three months back to normal, or the new normal, there hasn’t been a single COVID-19 infection within the company’s facilities. Since April, when we detected positive cases thanks to our PCR testing, our Medical Services area began contact tracing, and in less than 24 hours we prevented the spread of the pandemic among our workers. This wouldn’t have been possible without their effort, adaptability and solidarity”, said SEAT’s director of Health, Occupational Safety and Emergencies Dr. Patricia Such.
The company also asked workers about their plans for this summer in the employee survey, in order to measure the risk of infection from the type of activity they are going to carry out. Of the 5,000 volunteer participants who completed the questionnaire, 43% indicated that they would be doing activities considered medium to medium-high risk, including visiting cultural events, using public transportation, or going to shops in enclosed spaces.
Commitment to health
In recent years, SEAT has consolidated its position as one of the companies most committed to health. In 2017 it inaugurated CARS, a healthcare, preventive and rehabilitation centre that makes an annual average of more than 50,000 consultations to prevent and attend to the health and welfare issues of 15,000 workers of SEAT and other Volkswagen Group companies in Spain.
Together with the opening of CARS, SEAT created the SEAT Healthy Company Committee, made up of experts from different health-related organisations, such as the renowned researcher and epidemiologist Dr. Bonaventura Clotet, and researchers from Harvard University and the Hospital Clínic, who research health-related issues. The Committee recently presented MedCARS, a pioneering study that confirms the direct correlation between the Mediterranean diet, changing habits and improving some of the main health indicators.
Especially during the coronavirus health crisis, SEAT strengthened its commitment to health with several initiatives to battle the virus. For example, the company successfully produced 660 emergency ventilators in record time using car parts, which were sent to hospitals across the country at a time when resources were lacking. SEAT also rallied to manufacture surgical facemasks in collaboration with other companies with the filters used in the paint shop booths at the Martorell plant and distributed them to hospitals, law enforcement agencies and other organisations.
New Smart working model
In addition, with the aim of having a better balance between work and personal life, while maintaining efficiency and productivity, SEAT will implement a new remote work model, called Smart Work, starting in September. This hybrid model strikes a balance between working from the office and flexible working, from anywhere, in order to respond to the needs of both employees and the company.