“We had a great partnership with Hawkesbury General Hospital,” said Patrick Tallon, president of Tulmar Safety Systems Inc., during a May 15 phone interview. “The hospital is our first priority, but we are getting a lot of requests from other sources.”
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Tulmar, acteur important dans la lutte contre la COVID
Tulmar administration and staff are discovering a huge demand for the company’s newest item of protective gear: a reuseable full-face shield intended to help protect health care workers and first responders when they are on duty and dealing one-on-one with people during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hawkesbury-based company is best known for designing and manufacturing high-quality personal protection and emergency rescue gear for the aerospace industry and the military. The company contacted Hawkesbury & District General Hospital administration (HGH) in mid-March, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, asking if Tulmar could help meet some of the hospital’s personal protection equipment (PPE) needs.
“They responded almost within the hour,” Tallon said, adding that the three items that HGH had most need of were full-body gowns, face shields, and surgical masks.
Tulmar staff reviewed the list and decided to focus on the first two items. Tallon noted that two of his people, Meagan Bocking and Amanda Howes, took the lead on the project.
“They became the driving force behind it,” he said.
Project : Protection
HGH provided Tulmar with samples of the types of gowns and face shields needed at the hospital. Tulmar staff then checked the company’s materials inventory to see what was available that might work, while other employees began drafting designs.
After reviewing the supply inventory and doing some experimenting, Tulmar staff agreed that a proper protective gown for health care workers would not be feasible.
“The problem was getting the material,” Tallon said. “Medical-grade fabric just wasn’t in stock.”
Tulmar’s design team experimented with crafting a protective gown using a type of marine fabric that was in the company’s inventory. It was durable but the material could not withstand the temperature required for sterilizing hospital protective gear after each use.
The design team focus concentrated on the face shield, which proved a success. Two types of vinyl plastic were tested, and the one which worked best was both fully-transparent and capable of standing up to the sterilization process even better than anticipated.
HGH asked for a reuseable face shield that would be good for at least 10 uses, allowing for sterilization in between each use. The Tulmar face shield proved it could take the heat and be good to go at least 50 times before it was no longer reuseable.
The only thing the face shield needed was to have the foam forehead guard replaced because that would not survive the sterilization process. Tulmar staff designed a forehead guard that snaps in and out with ease, and the company made sure that HGH would have a ready supply of the guards with its shipment of face shields.
All in all, Tallon noted, the face shield project took about three weeks from start to finish, including design and initial fabrication. HGH got its supply of ready-made Tulmar face shields by the end of April. The company set aside some of the face shields from that first manufacturing run to donate to the Hawkesbury Fire Department, to ensure that its first-responders have adequate protection while attending accidents or other situations during which they might be at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
On guard now
The Tulmar PPE face shield for health care workers and first responders will now become part of the company’s permanent inventory of personal protection gear available for the market. For now the company will focus on meeting PPE demands during the pandemic from the health care and emergency response sectors, but Tallon expects that other businesses will soon be able to order made-in-Hawkesbury face shields from Tulmar.
“We’re used to making things that save lives,” Tallon said. “We are pretty proud of our workforce.”