Wine bottling, canning, or packaging can be one operational space that can be difficult for employees to maintain a 6-foot distance from one another. This is due to the assembly line format that is often set up during packaging operations. Below, we’ll explore some options available to wineries to better adapt bottling and packaging operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Use of Individual Protective Coverings
First, and foremost, it is helpful to get employees used to wearing protective coverings when they are within a working space with other employees. This can include cloth masks, protective eye coverings, and gloves. Please be aware that some states are requiring employers to provide these materials for employees, which we covered in the Winery Prep for COVID-19 Checklist.
As was discussed previously, providing training opportunities for employees on how to use these protective coverings is essential.
For example, when people wear disposable gloves, there is a tendency to forget that the gloves are not all protective. If an individual touches their face or skin while wearing the glove, the glove needs removed and replaced. If an individual touches a surface that is not properly sanitized, the glove needs removed and replaced. Furthermore, there are proper ways to put gloves on and take off without the individual contaminating themself.
If you want employees to practice their ability in properly removing masks and gloves, you can use GloGerm powder and black lights for visual feedback on hygiene practices. GloGerm is used as an educational tool to mimic particles that are about the same size of many bacteria. It is not a bacterial indicator; it is a tool to visualize the efficacy of your hygienic practices. Using these tools could help employees visualize where they need to improve with hand hygiene and removing protective equipment.
Please note that these training opportunities could be documented for FDA compliance.
Starting these habits during bottling season will make for an easier harvest season, should the need arise to be more protective come the Fall.
Maintain Six Feet of Distance between Employees
As was previously mentioned in the post regarding general COVID-19 mitigation strategies for food and beverage operations, maintaining six feet of distance between production personnel is one of the key recommendations for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 among employees. This means that through bottling operations, employees should be six feet apart at all times and avoid crossing paths through packaging.
Employers can help employees visualize six feet of distance by adding production tape to mark the appropriate distance along the bottling line. Companies like Uline offer options for floor tape.
Furthermore, if employees have to stand across from one another, there should be six feet of distance between the points of which they face one another. If this distance cannot be obtained when employees are facing one another, it is recommended to allocate employees on one side of the production line. A visual is provided by the CDC, here, to emphasize best practices.
Provide Dividers or Partitions when Standing Six Feet Apart is Not Possible
Alternatively, winery employers can provide partitions, as shown in the images from Mawby Vineyards and Winery when six feet of space cannot be reached between employees. The CDC page visualizes best practices associated with partitions.
Ideally, partitions should get cleaned and sanitized daily or after each use. Furthermore, it is recommended that partitions should not absorb liquid to avoid surface contamination.
Companies like Uline, Global Industrial, and Grainger offer options for portable dividers or partitions that wineries could incorporate into their production space. It is important to check with the supplier, prior to purchase, that the material could withstand a wet production space (i.e., contact with water), as well as cleaning and sanitation chemicals used by the winery.
In our next post, we’ll talk about work flow: how to set up your production space to minimize group congregation or bottlenecks that occur as a result of the room layout.