Dow Inc. CEO Jim Fitterling told CNBC on Thursday that strict worker screening and the use of personal protective equipment have allowed the material science giant to continue to operate its plants and labs as safely as possible during the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’re working safely. We’re sharing those best practices with governments around the world,” Fitterling said on “Squawk on the Street.” “We think it’s safe to go back to work, and we’re going to start to demonstrate that.”
Dow is currently operating with around 14,000 workers in its production facilities, Fitterling said, noting that governments classified many parts of the company as essential “because we supply so materials that are in need today.”
Dow has 36,500 employees at more than 100 manufacturing sites in 31 countries.
Fitterling said that returning workers safely to plants and labs are the focus of the company’s efforts now.
“When we get spaces where they’re tighter, like offices, that will probably come later,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re taking care of the basic functions and the people that are working effectively from home can continue to do that.”
Dow has implemented a number of safety strategies in response to the pandemic, said Fitterling.
Employees are wearing personal protective equipment, or PPE, while also practicing increased distancing and additional sanitation and hygiene, he said.
“One of the most important things is we’re screening when people come to work,” he explained. Security guards at plants or office buildings ask employees several questions, including how they feel, where they’ve traveled recently and whether they’ve been in contact with someone who is sick. Employees also get their temperature taken.
“What we’ve found is that we can screen people and keep people from coming into work if they’re not well, and then we can also make sure that they get tested and get treatment,” Fitterling said.
Employees who have to stay home are required to do so for 14 days or until they pass other criteria, he said, though it’s unclear what the other criteria are.
Workers continue to be paid during that period, he added. “This could happen to anybody, and we need to make sure our practices reflect that in the way we treat people.”
Fitterling’s comments come as many U.S. states consider how to relax coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses, and as companies prepare plans to safely return workers into plants and offices.
In addition to sharing its strategies with governments, Fitterling said that Dow is also discussing them openly with its customers.
Shares of Dow Inc. were down about 3% on Thursday after the company reported earnings that were basically in line with Wall Street expectations.