Back in March 2020, at the onset of the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., SEMI quickly formed an Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) COVID-19 working group made up of EHS professionals who suddenly saw a critical need to share their experiences, validate untested policies, and collaborate on establishing best practices in response to an extraordinary public health crisis.
The group, which today numbers 20 member companies, meets regularly to discuss an array of topics that have grown beyond their pressing need to react to a crisis earlier to a longer, more measured view of risk management as coronavirus cases continue to climb worldwide. While themes vary from one meeting to another, the recurring agenda remains the same to address the following topics:
- Phase approach – How to bring staff back on site
- Social distancing – How to manage people traffic flow on site
- Contact tracing – Track exposure to ensure workplace safety
- Space allocation – Changes to offices, cubicles and conference rooms
- HVAC systems – Optimizing workplace air flow and improving filtration systems
- Clean rooms – PPE and distancing protocols
- Training – Communications approaches to expanding awareness in order to reduce risk of spreading the virus
- Travel policies – Domestic and international travel guidelines
- Vaccines – Policies for vaccinating and monitoring personnel
- Site inspections – Preparing for an eventual increase in inspections from OSHA representatives
In April, the SEMI EHS team issued a survey to assess the pandemic preparedness of member companies. Designed by the COVID-19 working group, the survey found that, despite having a pandemic plan in place, many member companies faced a shortage of PPE and sanitization equipment, their most significant challenge at the time. Members also pointed to operational challenges posed by the pandemic and raised questions about how to establish sound policies appropriate for their operations and geographic locations.
Today, the SEMI EHS COVID-19 working group is well-established collaborative forum on public guidelines that members see as unclear as they continue to chart their own pandemic policies. With the first tranche of vaccines recently starting to ship in the U.S., the group has turned its attention to vaccine distribution and how companies will encourage employees to be vaccinated.
For more information about the SEMI EHS COVID-19 working group or to join the group, please contact the SEMI EHS team at EHS@semi.org.
Olivier Corvez is senior manager of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at SEMI.