BENTON HARBOR — In the wake of the spread of the coronavirus, Whirlpool Corp. announced it is taking precautions at its facilities overseas that are near quarantined areas.
The Benton Harbor-based appliance maker released a statement Wednesday to address concerns for employee safety in other countries.
“We have implemented teams at global, regional and local levels to enable the company to take any actions that might be needed in each of the regions in which we do business,” the statement read. “Some of these actions are of a practical nature, including policies implemented regarding travel and meeting restrictions to safeguard employees from the uncertainty of delays as airports have ever-changing controls and help reduce exposure risks.”
Whirlpool has a large presence in Milan, Italy, which is in the same region where Italy has seen the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The company opened its Whirlpool Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) headquarters in Milan, Italy in 2017. The EMEA headquarters is in the Perseo Expo District, and has more than 600 employees.
Italy has confirmed 400 cases of the virus as of Wednesday, in the northern regions of the country, which so far is the largest outbreak outside of Asia. To date 12 people have died in Italy from from the outbreak.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Italy has put 11 cities and towns in the country’s north on lockdown – banning people from entering or leaving affected areas, suspending public events and closing attractions. The measure put an estimated 100,000 people under quarantine.
In Milan, according to an online BBC story, fear is spreading faster than the virus, with cafes empty and hotel reservation cancelations mounting. Milan, however, is not in lockdown.
According to Whirlpool’s website, the company employs more than 6,000 people in eight locations in Italy.
“The health and safety of Whirlpool Corp. employees and those involved in our operations are our first priority,” the company’s statement read. “We have taken an array of steps, like many responsible global companies, to protect the health of our employees and gather the facts needed to minimize any impacts on our business.”