Employees at a PPE manufacturer have been working hugely increased hours to keep up with demand but are finally getting some well deserved time off.
Workers at a plant in Pennsylvania that manufactures raw material for personal protective medical equipment got to go home on Sunday for the first time in 28 days.
More than 40 dedicated employees volunteered to spend a month at the Braskem America plant in Marcus Hook, near Philadelphia, to make polypropylene, which is used to make medical gowns, masks, and other protective gear that is essential for frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Operations shift supervisor Joe Boyce said: “We’re truly honoured to be able to give back and support people we will never meet in some way. All the first responders, all the people in the front lines, we thank you. That’s what makes our job easy to do.”
In video footage, the 40 workers were seen whooping as they punched the plant’s time clock, eager and excited to get back to their families.
Braskem plant gave the workers an increase in wages, as well as providing beds, kitchens, groceries, internet access and iPads so that they were able to communicate with their families when they were not working.
It has been revealed that the 40+ employees also received occasional drive-by visits from their loved ones who brandished signs and honked their horns in a show of support.
When the coronavirus pandemic first arose, the workers met with managers to try and find out how they could help in America’s fight against the virus.
CEO Mark Nikolich, said: “We found very quickly that our role in this is keeping that plant running safely and securely.”
The workers who volunteered were split into two groups, each working 12-hour shifts to make polypropylene that would be used to make critical PPE for hospital employees and other frontline workers.
Boyce said at the time: “We’re isolated here, we’re staying in here 28 days, 24/7, 12-hour shifts. Everyone is doing their part. We’re jelling real well. Great camaraderie, everything is going fantastic.”
Nikolich praised the efforts of the workers, saying: “They all live, eat and sleep at the plant, so you can imagine they had to create living quarters. And we’re proud of how they are performing, and we’re proud of how their family and friends are celebrating what they are doing.”
At the halfway point of the 28 days that the workers spent at the plant, Boyce said: “To our families at home, we just want you to know that we miss you so much, and we’re all looking forward to coming home and seeing everybody. We’re all in this together.”
The plant has reported that the workers will get a week off before returning to their normal shifts.
Boyce even explained how he thought they were the fortunate ones, saying: “We’ve almost been the lucky ones, I’ll say for the last 28 days because I haven’t had to stand six feet from somebody. I haven’t had to put a mask on.”
People all over the globe have since taken to Twitter to express their gratitude for the dedication of the 40+ workers with one user tweeting:
“Patriots! Superheroes! Earth Angels! #BraskemAmerica Workers thank you for your selflessness and commitment to the bigger purpose. You are essential in so many ways for the soul of this country. Your actions will never be forgotten. Stay well and safe. Enjoy your well-earned time off!”
Another said: “Wow! Thank you employees of the #BraskemAmerica plant. This is one powerful, impactful way to answer the call for help.”
Meanwhile, US hospitals are falling back on wealthy philanthropists to make up for the shortfall in protective equipment.
Dr. Michael Carome, a director with the public interest advocacy group Public Citizen, has said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for them to turn to other sources, but it’s just tragic that’s what they’ve had to resort to because our federal government has failed so dramatically.”
President Trump has previously said that states were on their own when it came to PPE and that the federal government was not a “shipping clerk.”
In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker turned to the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Craft, for help in getting masks for healthcare workers in his state, using one of his company’s private planes to fly in N95 masks from China.
Whereas in New York, Andrew Cuomo publicly thanked the co-founder of Chinese retail giant Alibaba for his donation of protective equipment including gowns, masks, goggles and ventilators.
A survey by Premier, a medical supply company, has recently revealed that gowns are currently the most vital item of PPE that is currently in short supply, with 74% of healthcare respondents now identifying a lack of gowns as their top worry.
Michael J Alkire, president at Premier who distribute personal protective equipment to more than 4,000 US hospitals and health systems, said: “Ramping up the production of face masks and respirators appears to have affected the material supply needed for isolation gowns, easing one shortage only to exacerbate another.”