Austal employee tests positive for COVID-19, causes concerns for workers

Coronavirus

UPDATE:

Austal sent this statement Tuesday evening:

Mobile, Ala. – A Mobile-based Austal USA team member tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, the company learned Mar. 30. This test marks the first positive case for an Austal USA employee.

The employee, working second shift in the Module Manufacturing Facility Phase 2, has been offsite since Mar. 18 reportedly due to an unrelated matter. Fortunately, the employee is reportedly recovering at home in good condition.  As per protocol, the Austal Medical Team screened the co-workers that work in close proximity of the employee and none have any apparent symptoms.  They have been quarantined out of an abundance of caution.  The employee’s work area and equipment was sanitized and deep cleaned per Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

Austal activated its formal pandemic plan in early February and is following the OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, and additional guidance from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).  This includes implementing enhanced cleaning throughout the facility, frequent communications of the CDC guidelines for personal hygiene and social distancing, adding wash basins and hand sanitizer throughout the facility, activating an enhanced leave policy for those directly affected by the pandemic and school closures, offering employees to work an alternative shift or from home wherever possible, and using enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) when necessary.  This also continues to include restrictions on travel, restrictions on visitors and screening all suppliers that need to be on-site before entering the facility.

Austal also implemented an enhanced communication plan communicating important information about the pandemic, CDC guidance, and other important information directly with our employees.

Any employee who is sick is encouraged to stay home, and those that feel ill during work are encouraged to be screened at one of our on-site First Aid stations by the Austal medical team.

“As a major defense contractor, the work we do is vital to our national security and our employees take that responsibility very seriously,” said Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle. “That said, the health and well-being of our team is our number one priority, so we will continue to implement CDC guidelines in our workplace for our employees.

“I am so very proud of how our team and suppliers have responded to this unprecedented challenge. I am equally impressed with the incredible work of our health care professionals and first responders during this crisis.  They are all true heroes.”

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — An employee with Austal in Mobile has tested positive for coronavirus. Austal president Craig Perciavalle shared the information in a letter with the company, which was then shared with News 5.

Perciavalle says the employee worked second shift but had been off-site for unrelated reasons since March 18th. Austal has already screened other employees who worked closely with the patient and no one has shown symptoms. Austal is also deep-cleaning the area. Perciavalle asks employees to continue following CDC guidelines to stop the spread of the virus.

We spoke with an employee and an employee’s wife, who both wished to remain anonymous. They both said following CDC guidelines at Austal is near impossible. The spouse said, “They’re working so close together in a tight spot and I just don’t think they care about the welfare of their workers.” The employee said, “You have to work in close proximity so people are very confused by the 6 feet guidelines that they have at Austal because it doesn’t work, it’s impossible.”

For those employees exposed to the virus, well they aren’t paid for quarantine. In a coronavirus FAQ on Austal’s website, it says “employees are not paid for quarantine unless available paid time off is used. Employees under quarantine are also eligible for unpaid personal leave of absence.” Which the employee we spoke with said leaves them with very little options “They allow us to stay home, but who can afford to stay home and not get paid? So we have no choice, but to come to work.”

He feels that there could be a better way management can communicate with their employees during this health crisis.

Below is an image of the letter sent to Austal employees.

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