BREMERTON, Wash. —
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility adjusted its policies, processes and procedures this month to help protect its workforce in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to accomplish the command’s critical national security mission for the U.S. Navy and the nation.
“The health and safety of our workforce and community is - and always will be - the shipyard’s top priority. The shipyard’s efforts and planning are focused on ensuring we are aligned with Department of Defense guidance, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and completing the needed maintenance availabilities across the waterfront in Bremerton and at the remote detachments,” said Capt. Dianna Wolfson, commander, PSNS & IMF.
In accordance with Department of Defense and Navy policies, the command stopped all non-mission essential travel March 16, to include training, conferences and other items that do not directly support the PSNS & IMF mission of maintaining, modernizing and retiring the Navy’s fleet. All individuals returning from high-risk locations, based on CDC and State Department guidance, have self-quarantined at home for 14 days.
“The Navy and therefore the United States requires us to remain fully operational during this time of extreme difficulty,” said James Smerchansky, executive director, Naval Sea Systems Command. “It’s our women and men across the NAVSEA enterprise, including our Naval Shipyards, Regional Maintenance Centers and Warfare Centers that keep our ships in the fight.”
In an effort to follow DoD and CDC guidance for social distancing and to limit groups of people, PSNS & IMF has also canceled or delayed all non-operational events and gatherings. Working with Naval Base Kitsap, PSNS & IMF ceased operations of all buses operating inside the controlled industrial area March 17, with the exception of handicapped-accessible buses.
All personnel have commenced daily self-assessments, with questions that involve their recent travel, their current state of health, and their proximity to others who have tested positive for COVID-19. Workers who answer “yes” to any of the questions on the self-assessment screener stay home and notify their supervisor or manager.
Based on guidance from Washington State’s Governor and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Capt. Dianna Wolfson, commander, PSNS & IMF, implemented telework for individuals over the age of 60, and for employees with health conditions identified by the CDC that put them at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19.
Wolfson used her authority to authorize Administrative (Weather and Safety) leave for those high-risk individuals and caregivers of high-risk individuals, and for those with jobs that are not telework-capable.
As part of the ongoing widespread efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19, these telework and administrative leave plans will be evaluated every two weeks. As part of that process, and in order to align corporately with the latest federal guidance from the CDC, the shipyard updated its criteria of vulnerable age from 60 to 65 and older beginning April 1.
As of March 24, the shipyard has 2,001 people teleworking and is working to redistribute laptops throughout the workforce from people who cannot work from home or who do not need to be mobile to do their jobs, over to workers who can telework full time. These numbers represent nearly 15 percent of the workforce. The command aims to have 2,200 people teleworking by April 6.
PSNS & IMF leaders have also implemented Alternate Work Schedules to help limit the number of people working in an area at one time, and to help families work around child-care issues that impacted their families when all Washington schools were closed March 17. PSNS & IMF leadership worked with Naval Base Kitsap to ensure that employees registered with the Child Development Center were able to maintain child care.
As a part of this effort, the normal daytime workforce has been split between a day shift and second shift, reducing the flow of individuals in and out of the shipyard at any given time as well as reducing the number of people each individual has contact with during a given day for the purpose of social distancing.
“We really had to think strategically, how we can accomplish our mission and yet limit the amount of individuals here at one time,” said Wolfson. “Everyone has been engaged to ensure we have the right individuals, the appropriate levels of leadership and all needed qualifications for success. This effort requires us to win as a team, ensuring safety and first-time quality, every time.”
PSNS & IMF has enacted several measures to protect its workforce and help them meet the mission during this time. This included ensuring employees had the ability to use flexible leave options, including advanced annual leave and sick leave.
Approximately 15 employees from Shop 06, tooling and logistics and Code 500, supply and logistics, assembled more than 2,000 cleaning kits, which contain disinfecting cleaning solution, wipes, gloves and instructions. The kits have been issued to all the shops, codes and building managers throughout the shipyard, to include PSNS & IMF’s detachments at Bangor and Everett.
“This was a phenomenal effort by our team,” said Floyd Sawyer, trade superintendent with Shop 06. “The willingness of so many to come in and help out was inspiring to see.”
Based on suggestions from members of the workforce, the PSNS & IMF laboratory started producing isopropyl-based hand solution March 20, and dispensers were placed inside all gates into the controlled industrial area for the use of employees entering or leaving the area, beginning March 23. The solution contains the appropriate alcohol content consistent with Food and Drug Administration, CDC, and World Health Organization guidance, and is consistent with commercially available options. More than 750 16-ounce pump bottles have been produced, with more than 400 being distributed so far throughout the command including detachments at Everett and Bangor and other Navy customers.
PSNS & IMF has installed additional portable sinks around the shipyard and the command has contracted additional support for the increased cleaning of common areas. These spaces, in all buildings, are being cleaned daily. Keypads and exit buttons at all turnstiles, in addition to the turnstiles themselves, are being cleaned four times a day, including weekends. Hand rails in the Burwell Tunnel are being cleaned four times a day as well. The shipyard’s cleaning contractor is also using a disinfectant cleaner, in mist form, to quickly and effectively meet the increasing cleaning needs.
Employee food services is limiting the number of customers who can be inside the canteens and cafeteria at one time, while also eliminating the salad bar, and providing individually-prepared salads. Canteens are no longer making food to order, and now prepackage all food in to-go containers.
“We are taking this seriously,” said Wolfson. “We are taking the necessary steps to flatten the curve, while still meeting the demands of our mission to protect national security.”