Boeing to reopen Philadelphia helicopter plant after two-week COVID closure

AvatarBy Dan Parsons | April 17, 2020

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 8 seconds.

Boeing plans to reopen its Ridley Township, Pennsylvania, plant on April 20 after employees testing positive for coronavirus prompted a two-week closure of its helicopter production lines so they could be thoroughly sterilized.

The company on April 3 closed the plant outside Philadelphia, which is a major center of U.S. military rotorcraft manufacturing, becoming the first and so far only prime U.S. defense contractor to close an active production line because of the ongoing pandemic.

Boeing’s V-22 Osprey assembly line outside Philadelphia. Boeing Photo

Boeing builds the H-47 Chinook for the U.S. Army and international customers there, as well as the fuselage and post-combat refit for the V-22 Osprey. Boeing also installs military specific equipment and finalizes assembly of the Air Force’s new MH-139 Grey Wolf, built across town by Leonardo Helicopters at the facility.

“During the scheduled two weeks of suspended operations . . . the company has been working to restart production with enhanced safety measures,” Boeing said in a statement. “Boeing will resume operations in our production facilities and other areas deemed essential on Monday, April 20. The number one priority is and will continue to be protecting the health and safety of our employees, their families and all of our stakeholders.”

Boeing has enacted several precautionary measures that go into effect when it reopens April 20. They include enhanced cleaning of the entire facility and implementing improved procedures. Signage promoting enhanced hygiene is posted throughout the facility and hand-washing stations have been added at entry points to the site.

Physical distancing practices will be reinforced and shift times will be staggered to reduce the number of employees working at one time. Work areas have been spaced farther apart with visual markers displayed to encourage physical distancing, Boeing said. Cafeteria areas will be adjusted to allow for more physical distancing.

Some employees will continue meeting virtually, where possible, to reduce face-to-face interactions. Consistent with recent direction from the Pennsylvania state government, employees are required to wear masks or other face coverings in the workplace. Masks will be made available onsite for employees who need one.

Temperature screening will be required for all employees daily before coming to work. Screening stations with no-touch thermal scanners will be set up to accommodate workers who need to check their temperature onsite. Employees who are not required to support operations in Boeing’s production facilities, and who are able to telecommute and work virtually, will continue to do so.

“Boeing Philadelphia site leadership will continue to monitor conditions and new information related to COVID-19, including the latest federal and state health guidelines, so we can continuously implement new safeguards and procedures,” the company said.

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