The Boeing Co. will resume commercial airplane production throughout Washington, including production at the Everett assembly plant, in a phased approach that begins next week.
More than 27,000 Boeing employees will return to work starting Monday to resume building the 747, 767, 777 and 787 models.
State officials have given Boeing the green light to open re-start operations.
The Chicago-based company said Thursday it would it would be taking extra precautions at all locations to keep workers safe and to blunt the spread of COVID-19.
In response to the growing threat of the new coronavirus, the jet manufacturer suspended operations last month at Puget Sound-region facilities. The company re-started some defense production this week, returning about 2,500 employees to work on the Everett-built KC-46 tanker, a derivative of the 767, and the Renton-built P-8 anti-submarine airplane, a derivative of the 737.
“The health and safety of our employees, their families and communities is our shared priority,” said Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a news release Thursday.
“This phased approach ensures we have a reliable supply base, our personal protective equipment is readily available and we have all of the necessary safety measures in place to resume essential work for our customers,” Deal said.
Employees around Puget Sound working on the 737, 747, 767 and 777 will return to work as early as third shift on Monday, with all employees returning to work by Thursday. Production of the 787 is expected to resume next Thursday and Friday.
Boeing also said it will resume working toward restarting production of the grounded 737 MAX, but did not provide a timeline.
The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace said that Boeing had assured the union that all workers would be supplied with personal protective equipment, but still SPEEA issued a cautionary statement on Thursday saying, “While we certainly hope all safety are in place, experience tells us lapses will occur. This is human nature. The faster these lapses are reported and corrected, the safer the workplace becomes. The last thing Boeing and its employees need at this difficult time, is a COVID-19 crisis created by someone not wearing proper personal protection equipment or not following distancing guidelines,” SPEEA said in a statement.
Operations at Boeing’s Puget Sound-area locations have been suspended since March 25, three days after a worker at the plant in Everett died from COVID-19. Prior to the man’s death, numerous workers on the factory floor complained to news media about a lack of cleaning supplies and a shortage of cleaning crews. Production was scheduled to begin this week, but Boeing opted to continue the shutdown. The decision appeared to align with Gov. Jay Inslee’s decree that extended his stay-at-home order until May 4.
Production at Boeing’s 787 assembly plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, remains temporarily suspended.
Boeing said it would impose staggered shift times to reduce the flow of workers arriving and departing, require workers to wear masks and provide personal protective equipment to employees working in areas where physical separation cannot be maintained for an extended period.
Employees will undergo wellness checks at the beginning of every shift and will be asked to perform self-health checks before coming to work. Employees who can work from home will continue to do so, Boeing said.
The company says it will practice enhanced cleaning and provide hand-washing station in high traffic areas along with extra cleaning supplies.