Caernarfon Herald

‘There’s no ventilatio­n, just fans that circulate air... we’re all worried’

FACTORY WORKER’S COVID-19 FEARS AS 18 FORCED TO SELF ISOLATE

- Andrew Forgrave

ANXIOUS workers at a Gwynedd plastics factory have spoken of their Covid fears after the virus forced 19 colleagues into self-isolation.

uPVC window manufactur­er Rehau confirmed last week one staff member at the firm’s Blaenau Ffestiniog plant had tested positive for coronaviru­s.

A further 18 workers were told to quarantine but all have since tested negative for the disease.

However other employees claimed there had been other Covid-19 cases at the factory in the past fortnight – and that they felt their concerns were being ignored by management.

“A shift of about 20 lads has been wiped out and the remaining staff are now having to do overtime to maintain production,” said one, whose claims were supported by a colleague.

Both asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs.

“We feel we are in danger but no one is listening to us and that our health isn’t being taken seriously.”

But Rehau, which employs around 150 people at the factory, said the health and safety of its workforce was its “number one priority”.

It “co-operates fully” with the Test Trace Protect programme and any employee who tests positive is asked to “isolate immediatel­y”, it stressed.

“The only solution is to shut the factory for 10 days so that everyone is Covid free before it reopens,” said the employee.

“However the staff worry production is being put before health.”

In March 2020 the company suspended work at its Blaenau Ffestiniog plant five days after the first lockdown was imposed.

Production resumed on June 1 with a series of new safety measures, including a one-way system, twometre distancing, handwashin­g and the wearing of face masks.

Another was temperatur­e checks for each employee arriving for work, which is still in place.

Staff were also advised not to car share to work.

While the measures were effective last winter, employees claim they are insufficie­nt once the virus is inside the factory.

“In the lamination area there is no ventilatio­n, just fans which recirculat­e the air inside,” said one.

“That’s a really good way to spread Covid and the lads there are really worried.

“Our temperatur­es are still being taken when we get to work but the number of cases shows this doesn’t really work.”

Rehau confirmed a member of the production team tested positive for coronaviru­s on Saturday, July 10.

Two days earlier he had been informed via the

NHS app he had been near an infected person at a social event outside of work.

“The employee immediatel­y took a lateral flow test which also showed a positive result,” said a spokespers­on.

“The next day he went to take a PCR test which also came back positive.

“Later that day 18 of his colleagues were contacted to say that they must also self-isolate for 10 days which was enforced by REHAU immediatel­y.

“It has since been confirmed that none of the 18 colleagues have tested positive.”

An employee claimed production floor staff had approached management about their concerns but they were told to continue working.

“Everyone is scared in case we take the virus back home with us and infect vulnerable family members.

“But we have no option but to carry on working as we have to provide for our families.”

Gary Simmonds, plant director at REHAU UK said a “robust” 12-point safety plan had prevented any infections spreading within the plant – and it continues to protect workers against Covid-19.

Regarding the recent case, he said the business was “strictly following” all government guidance.

Mr Simmonds added: “We would also like to reassure people that the employee mainly works on his own and all colleagues have temperatur­e checks on arrival, wear face masks, regularly sanitise their hands and work at least two metres apart from each other.

“We hope all those involved are safe and well.”

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