March became the month where the term “stay at home” became a mandate in response to the rampant spread of the novel coronavirus. But while most of us settled into a new routine of staying home and working remotely, the people of Louisiana’s chemical industry continued working long days and countless hours to provide communities with vital equipment and products to help fight the uphill coronavirus battle. Right here at home, our friends and family are producing chemicals essential for household cleaning products, medicines and plenty of other resources vital to keep our state and our nation healthy and safe.
Materials made in our chemical facilities create the plastics for IV bags, produce precursors to disinfectants such as hand sanitizer, and materials like polypropylene used for masks and other protective gear for medical professionals. The chemicals created are protecting, shielding and equipping our families, neighbors and those on the front lines sacrificing their health to heal those infected.
Just last month, the World Health Organization called on manufacturers to increase production of personal protective equipment by 40% to meet the rise in global demand. The concern is that front-line workers will be left ill-equipped if there is limited access to this equipment.
Louisiana chemical facilities have simultaneously prioritized protecting employees from receiving or spreading the virus while increasing their production.
Companies across the state are instituting industry best practices such as maintaining social distancing protocols in the management of shift changes and performing environmental health and safety interventions. Shift relief is being conducted without face-to-face contact and shift rotations are organized to keep employee groups safely separated as much as possible.
Chemical facilities are also enacting compliance activities and permit management systems to minimize any contact among individuals. They are conducting Critical Activity Assessments at each operating location, isolating operators as much as possible and directing all nonessential employees to work from home. Ensuring our facilities uphold these high standards is a top priority and is essential for timely production, and more importantly, protecting our people.
Companies in Louisiana are implementing detailed screenings for all employees, contractors and visitors on-site, including temperature scans, questionnaires and restrictions on-site access. Additionally, our facilities are disinfecting and cleaning control room surfaces, kitchens and break rooms at the end of each shift, with additional emphasis on high-touch surfaces.
The chemical industry in Louisiana is a critical cog in the pandemic response wheel. By consistently and diligently enacting precautionary measures and infection prevention practices, we are doing our part to protect our people and supply the nation with lifesaving supplies.
president, Louisiana Chemical Association