Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) has started production of 57 000 protective face shields that will be donated to front-line medical and essential services personnel who are most at risk of contracting Covid-19.
The face shields, which protect the user’s eyes, nose and mouth, are being produced at Ford’s Silverton assembly plant, in Pretoria, by a volunteer FMCSA staff contingent.
The South African initiative complements the efforts of Ford Motor Company in the US to produce face shields. The US parent company are also partnering with GE Healthcare to manufacture ventilators at its Michigan plants.
“The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented, and is having a dramatic impact on the health of communities around the world, while also placing a massive strain on the medical resources of even the most advanced countries,” says FMCSA operations VP Ockert Berry.
“With South Africa on lockdown and our plants not operating at the moment, we felt that it was essential for us to use our manufacturing capacity and expertise to contribute to the efforts of the South African government, private healthcare institutions and humanitarian organisations to contain the spread of Covid-19, and to care for those infected with the virus.”
The World Health Organisation and South Africa’s Department of Health have deemed these face shields, along with N95 face masks, which can be worn under the shield, as a crucial part of personal protective equipment for medical personnel, says FMCSA.
The shields will also be made available to local police, military and those responsible for transporting workers in the essential services industries.
“With face shields in critically short supply, we are dedicating our resources and manpower to produce them as quickly as possible,” explains Berry. “We are urgently engaging with our component suppliers and business partners, and inviting them to come on board and assist us with raising funds for this important project.
“We also welcome any contributions from individuals and companies across South Africa to support this initiative, whether it’s R10, R10 000 or R100 000. Every little bit counts,” adds Berry.
“Our goal is to produce at least 500 000 face shields, and possibly even more.”
Already, Trek Plastics has begun supplying the necessary medical-grade materials to Ford at a discounted rate.
Additionally, Corruseal Group has committed to supplying boxes at no cost for packaging the face shields, and Creative Graphics International has donated materials.
Two of Ford’s transport service providers, Trans-Atlantic Logistics and DSV, have agreed to waive the transport costs to help with distribution to hospitals, clinics and other locations countrywide.
Other suppliers that have contributed thus far include Feltex Automotive and Aeroklas Duys for the foam materials, and Lithotec for the labels.
Ford is covering all the labour costs for assembly and packaging.
The shields, which wrap around the user’s face use a clear polyethylene shield, polyurethane foam padding and an elastic latex fabric headband to keep it in place.
Each unit is packaged with clear instructions on how to wear the shield correctly, along with cleaning and storage guidelines. They are designed to be reusable, and sanitised after each use.
Ford employees involved in the production process work according to strict guidelines. All staff are screened regularly for Covid-19 symptoms, and are required to wear latex gloves, face masks and face shields, while maintaining the appropriate physical distance at all times.
In the US, Ford is targeting the production of more than one-million face shields a week, and has already produced more than 1.2-million units since the project started more than two weeks ago.