Procter & Gamble, one of West Virginia’s most prominent manufacturing plants, has been making some adjustments during the coronavirus pandemic.
Like other workplaces, the P&G plant in Berkeley County has instituted workplace precautions such as screening stations, mask rules and social distancing.
The other effect is greater demand for the many cleaning supplies that P&G produces, such as dryer sheets and Swiffer cleaners. People are staying home more, with a greater urgency for cleanliness.
“We took great pride in being an essential employer,” said Steve O’Brien, the site human resources manager at Tabler Station.
He added, “You think about surface care, dish care, people are doing more laundry. So for us that meant we needed to keep running, but we also needed to provide a safe environment for our employers, our providers and anybody who comes on site.”
The P&G plant off the Interstate 81 exit is still so new it shines. These days, visitors stand in a yellow box for a temperature screening before being handed a surgical mask approved by the company. The mask you brought from home is stowed in your pocket.
Staircases, where you are supposed to hold the rail, have pumpable hand sanitizer at the top and bottom. The high-alcohol sanitizer is made by P&G but not for sale.
Workers wear mask and keep their distance. Those taking a meal break sit at individual tables but chat across the way. The areas where there are desks have been thinned out so workers can sit every other.
“We’re very focused on trying to design out work to be able to do it at a safe distance so we are able to not cause any virus spread,” O’Brien said.
Some are working from home, although the nature of the business makes that a challenge.
“Manufacuring is a team sport,” O’Brien said. “There is limited work from home.”
There are 1,400 workers at the plant, split up by 12-hour shifts, some days on and some days off. They oversee many of the semi-automated machines that cruise down aisles or stack pallets.
The plant is the nationwide supplier for household mainstays like Bounce dryer sheets, Dawn dish detergent and Gain laundry detergent.
P&G says products like those are in greater demand this year as people spend more time at home.
“Demand’s been very high as you think on the fabric and home care side of the business,” O’Brien said. “People are doing more laundry, which still has you using your Bounce dryer sheets, things like that.”