Industrial businesses have faced unprecedented challenges amid COVID-19. Companies have dealt with shutdowns and other disruptions for almost a year now, but the end may be near. As vaccines begin to roll out, many workers now wonder when they can get vaccinated.

The industrial sector, from manufacturing to warehousing to freight to shipping, is the backbone of much of the economy. The success of many industries relies on these workers performing as efficiently as they can. As a result, ensuring employee safety is imperative.

As with many things during the pandemic, the vaccine rollout schedule isn’t always clear. Here’s when industrial workers can expect to get the COVID-19 inoculation.


Vaccine rollout phases

The CDC’s current vaccine allocation recommendations outline two phases, with the first taking place over three sub-phases. Phase 1a, the first group to receive the vaccine, covers health care personnel and long-term care facility residents. Phase 1b includes “non-health care frontline essential workers,” which could consist of some industrial sector employees.

There’s some ambiguity here since the definition of a “frontline essential worker” is rather open-ended. Most authorities agree that this refers to people who are crucial to the operation of critical infrastructure and may be at relatively high risk. Many areas use the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA’s) Guidance on the Essential Critical Workforce to define this group in specificity.

According to CISA, “essential workers” does include some industrial employees. The most recent list includes people in these industries:

  • Energy
  • Petroleum
  • Liquid fuels
  • Water and wastewater
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Construction
  • Critical manufacturing
  • Hazardous materials
  • Chemical

Under this definition, most industrial workers fall under Phase 1b. Several states are already rolling out vaccines to these people, so they could get vaccinated now. If not, then it shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks before they can.

Industrial workers who don’t fall under Phase 1b will almost certainly qualify for Phase 1c. Since these sectors are so crucial and working conditions are typically high-risk, employees count as essential. Phase 1c will overlap with the end of Phase 1b, most likely starting within a few months.


Differences between states

Not all states follow these guidelines. Washington, D.C., and 23 states have unique definitions of “frontline essential workers,” but there’s much overlap with CISA. Almost all of these include water, energy, construction and transportation as essential industries.

Keep in mind that not all states will follow the CDC’s recommendations for vaccine rollout, either. Most don’t differ widely from CDC guidelines, but workers should take the time to double-check where they fall according to their state.


Staying safe until vaccines are accessible

Even under the most optimistic timeline, it will likely take several months before all industrial employees can get vaccinated. As a result, these workers and the facilities that employ them should maintain anti-COVID measures for the time being.

For the more than 3.5 million truck drivers waiting for the vaccine, these measures should include social distancing, wearing masks while around others and frequent disinfection. Other industrial sectors should adhere to the same guidelines.

Manufacturing and warehousing account for the second-highest number of COVID-19 outbreaks in some areas. As such, these facilities should take extra precautions. Spacing employees out with machines between them, using ID-based contact tracing and implementing wearable proximity sensors are all recommended steps. Employers should allow anyone who can work from home to do so.


Safer days are on the horizon for industrial workers

All industries have faced difficulty amid the pandemic, but industrial sectors have dealt with more than most. These industries are critical to the U.S. economy, and facilities are often prone to outbreaks. Thankfully, the days of severe health risks for these workers may be coming to an end.

Most industrial workers should be able to get vaccinated within a few months. While the vaccine doesn’t negate the need for better health regulations, it is promising. Before the year is over, this sector will become far safer than it is now.