20% of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard working remotely

20% of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard working remotely 20% of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard working remotely

FeaturedWIB sea March 27, 2020 0

KITTERY, Maine – Approximately 20% of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workforce is currently working remotely as a result of the coronavirus health emergency, officials... 20% of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard working remotely

KITTERY, Maine – Approximately 20% of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workforce is currently working remotely as a result of the coronavirus health emergency, officials said this week.

The shipyard remains fully operational during the pandemic, which has closed all non-essential businesses in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts – the three states from which the yard’s workforce of nearly 8,000 commutes.

Anti-virus mitigation efforts have been implemented across Seavey Island, and Capt. Daniel Ettlich, the shipyard’s commander, has been unwavering in his messaging that maintaining and modernizing the Navy’s attack submarines is a critical national security mission that must continue.

This week, Deputy Public Affairs Officer Gary Hildreth confirmed “the shipyard has no plans to close or cease operations.”

Up the coast in Bath, Maine, at Bath Irons Works where its first positive case of coronavirus was confirmed this week, just 41% of BIW employees clocked in for their Tuesday morning shift, according to union representatives.

Union officials, along with legislators and legislative leaders, have called on the federal government to provide BIW with flexibility in the delivery date of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers they build for the Navy, per published reports.

There are still no confirmed cases at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Hildreth said this week. Last week, a sailor working at PNSY’s detachment in San Diego, California, tested positive and has been in self isolation since March 17.

“Portsmouth Naval Shipyard remains focused on minimizing the spread of the virus and protecting our sailors, Navy civilians and their families,” Hildreth said. “We remain in close coordination with state and federal authorities, and public health authorities to ensure the well-being of our personnel and local population.”

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday announced it has identified community transmission of the coronavirus within York County. Community transmission means at least 25% of the 27 cases confirmed thus far in York County have occurred in patients who haven’t traveled recently or had any known contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, which the virus causes, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC.

High-risk PNSY employees, as identified by the Office of Management and CDC, are able to take administrative leave during this time, per guidance from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The 20% of PNSY employees currently working remotely are completing required knowledge refresher training to maintain technical proficiency, online annual training and professional development, Hildreth said. In addition, approximately 3% of the workforce is teleworking.

Apprenticeship training has also moved to a remote online learning environment.

Hildreth explained that for individuals whom the CDC lists as being at high risk to severe complications tied to COVID-19, they have been allowed to telework or work remotely. If they are unable to remotely work, they are allowed to take “weather and safety leave” – a type of administrative leave that does not count against or draw from employees’ accrued annual or sick leave.

Hildreth said PNSY senior leaders are in constant communication with local labor leaders, working together to monitor the pandemic.

Larry Dennis, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said for the most part, “the shipyard is doing everything they can to minimize the spread and the impact.”

In his union in particular, Dennis said, in addition to those out on telework or remote work, workers have been split into different groups to allow spacing between work evolutions.

“For the most part, we’re all pretty well in line and everyone is working on the same issue and problem, coming up with solutions,” Dennis said. “They’re being very proactive and I don’t think they’re putting anyone in immediate danger or risk.”

Dennis noted the remote work option has opened up opportunities for employees that haven’t existed in the past – as professional development typically gets lost amid the daily grind.

“We’re on conference calls three times a day, we’re constantly in contact, interacting with (leadership) and the workforce making sure everyone is safe,” Dennis said. “We’re cleaning everything. Everything gets scrubbed down.”

Asked what protocol is in place if a member of the PNSY community does test positive for the coronavirus, Hildreth said that worker or sailor would be directed to seek medical attention, remain in their residence, and be restricted in movement in accordance with CDC, state and local guidelines.

The shipyard and working health professionals would conduct a thorough contact investigation to determine whether any other personnel may have been in close contact and possibly exposed, Hildreth said.

“Depending on the results of that investigation, additional precautionary measures may be taken,” Hildreth said. “In addition, for the protection of others, the individual’s work area would be thoroughly cleaned.”

In a message to workers this week, Ettlich wrote, “Something we must do before we even leave our homes is give ourselves a quick self-screening. First, are you currently sick? Do you have a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath? If so, stay home, contact your supervisor and your medical provider.”

Referencing Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order to close non-essential businesses, Ettlich said the strategies the governor outlined for essential businesses still operating – staggered break times, frequent hand washing, sanitizing high traffic areas – “validates the actions we have already been taking here at the shipyard to protect our people.”


©2020 Portsmouth Herald, N.H.

Visit Portsmouth Herald, N.H. at www.seacoastonline.com/portsmouthherald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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