Upholstery materials supplier Alcantara has reopened its Nera Montoro production and R&D facilities north of Rome.

It had closed the facility, which has 500 employees, voluntarily late in March in response to the COVID-19 crisis although it was an Italian business authorised to stay in production.  

“Our decision to close the plant in March was based on a need to guarantee the safety of our employees,” said chairman and CEO Andrea Boragno.

The facility has since undergone a deep sanitisation process and returning employees are being provided with masks, gloves and goggles as they enter the plant. 

Boragno added: “It is evident that containment and social distancing measures currently in place will extend well beyond April. We don’t know how long the emergency will last, but a complete mid- to long-term shutdown simply would not be viable.”

Safety measures developed with trade unions and business associations would be in place for “a very long time”.

The company currently is implementing serological test programs in cooperation with trade unions and the Umbria region of Italy to quickly identify individuals infected with the virus or who are asymptomatic but still contagious.

Suspected cases must take swab tests.

The new controls are coupled with the mandatory use of PPE (personal protective equipment), an increase in working distances, periodic deep sanitisation of work areas and daily employee temperature checks.

A triage area has been set up outside the entrance to the plant where employees receive a checkup when arriving at work or after finishing their shifts.

Workers have their temperatures measured with a thermal scanner while in their cars.

After signing a voluntary disclosure, consent and self-certification form, they also receive a finger tip blood test with results available within five minutes.

All data is shared with the USL (local health centre) and will help to form the basis for an epidemiological survey.

Alcantara claims to be one of the first companies in Italy to adopt voluntary antivirus tests and procedures on top of those already prescribed by law.

It has developed various prototype face masks currently under review by government authorities for mass production at the Nera Montoro plant.

The company’s trademarked material is light weight and benefits are said to include durability, grip and breathability.

The auto industry accounts for about 80% of the company’s business today but is also targeting fashion, consumer electronics, home interiors, luxury boating and aviation sectors.