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Purell Manufacturer Gojo Industries Details Worker Safety Efforts Amid Pandemic

April 8, 2020
The company explains what it is doing to protect its workers as consumers demand more hand sanitizer.

Gojo Industries is a third-generation disinfectant manufacturer that began in an Akron, Ohio basement. It now captures more than 25% of the hand sanitizer market and has played an integral part in illness prevention during the pandemic.

The company released a message on April 7 addressing efforts it is taking to protect its workers from the novel coronavirus its products aim to kill.

Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, Gojo's executive chair, explains, "All of us at GOJO are galvanized to help the world stay healthy during this global public health crisis. And, while we respond, to keeping ourselves safe and healthy."

She alludes to the company's mission – Saving Lives and Making Life Better Through Well-Being Solutions – and the challenge to keep up with demand, saying the pandemic is "challenging us to make and deliver as many of our products as humanly possible to those who need it most. I am proud of our deep collective sense of responsibility to care for our team members making it happen and to contribute to life-saving efforts in our local, national, and global communities.”

Gojo currently has 2,500 employees spread across three factories – two of which are in Ohio and the other in France. The company has had to hire additional workers to keep up with global demand for Purell, its hand sanitizer that was first introduced to consumers in 1988.

A short drive about 45 minutes southwest of its headquarters in Akron, Ohio, is the company's production plant in Wooster. Entering mid-March, the pandemic reared its head, and the company called to hire additional team members as more Americans scrambled to stores to grab disinfecting products.

In a Facebook video, Justin Starlin, Wooster's Chamber of Commerce president, explains the urgency, "This facility is now being relied on more than ever to increase its production of Purell that the world so desperately needs." 

The open positions, both temporary and full time, assist with the production and distribution of Purell throughout the nation. They range from machine operator, warehouse associates, facility maintenance mechanics, to assembly, production and blow mold operators.

With burgeoning demand comes the responsibility to ensure the safety of all workers and the added task of aiding workers new to the production process who have had to hit the ground running. 

"Gojo is vigilant in supporting the health, safety, and well-being of its team members," the message reads. "The company has been rapidly adapting ways of working to enable social distancing for those whose duties require work on-site and remote collaboration for all who can do their work from home."

On March 20, a first-shift worker at the company's Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio plant displayed symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus. GoJo released a statement saying it “immediately took action to further protect the health of our team members at this location and (company officials) are in touch with the other team members who worked this production line about additional preventative guidance and isolation measures.” Specific measures were not mentioned at the time.

Gojo affirms in the letter its "aggressive adherence to all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for team members whose work requires on-site work."

Among those efforts include adjusting manufacturing lines to ensure physical distance between workers and staggered breaks. The company also has added tables in its cafeteria to limit the number of people together and has increased the number of time clocks to prevent "congregating at shift changes."

The company's own disinfecting products are playing a part in the health and safety of its workers. In addition to "already rigorous cleaning protocols," each workstation and high-touch points around Gojo facilities are being regularly disinfected.

Workers also are encouraged to participate in temperature screenings at all of its locations. 

Other measures include additional paid sick time of up to 80 hours, the availability of both psychological and financial counselors at no cost to workers and pandemic child care centers.

The letter also recognizes team members who now work-at-home with efforts being made to reinforce company culture no matter the work location.

"Accelerated roll-out of robust digital tools and collaboration technologies to enable our team-based culture to keep moving at full-speed," it states.

Financial incentives also will be provided. Gojo is rewarding its team members involved in manufacturing and distribution with a "supply chain bonus," totaling an average of $1,000.

To aid employees facing difficulties, the company has established the Goldie Lippman Gojo Team Member Relief Fund, named after one of the co-founders.

An initial $100,000 contribution jumpstarts the fund that will be used to provide monetary support to workers who need it most.

Gojo President Carey Jaro acknowledges workers' efforts during the crisis, saying: "With every new challenge this pandemic brings, Gojo team members are doing what it takes – increasing production, developing new solutions, and working hand in hand with our distributor partners and end-user customers to ensure our Purell products get to the hospitals, first responders, and critical infrastructure providers who are on the front lines. Our 2,500 Gojo team members are remarkable, and both Marcella and I are grateful for and humbled by their tireless effort to get these critical medical supplies to others.”

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