Author: stanley stanley

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One of the biggest problems facing America, during the coronavirus epidemic, was the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other safety equipment. There were reports of Amazon vendors selling their masks at $1000 for a pair of 15 N95’s. Masks became such a hard-to-find commodity, that even healthcare workers were forced to reuse their masks multiple days in a row. Essential workers, such as grocery-store and supermarket workers, who interact with thousands of shoppers each day, also faced challenges accessing masks. The price surged rapidly, and the question is: How did we allow this to happen?

The answer is partially due to the fact we outsourced most mask manufacturing to China, and that the Strategic National Stockpile ran out of equipment – this triggered a rapid shortage in masks/PPE which started a worldwide trade war and made the price of masks surge. China, the country that manufacturers most of our medical supplies, stopped shipping large supplies of masks to fight their own battle at home. The US government also had a Strategic National Stockpile of masks (located in warehouses throughout the US), but this stockpile ran out as early as April.

What Caused The Federal Stockpile Shortage

While the Federal stockpile was subject to a lot of criticism, and likely the main cause of price surges during the Covid-19 pandemic, there is one obvious question: How did the wealthiest country in the history of the world fail to accumulate a stockpile large enough to fight a pandemic flu? The answer: Previous pandemics. 

The Strategic National Stockpile was large enough to supply all US hospitals without any issues during the 2009 swine flu pandemic. The Obama administration handed out 85 million N95 respirator masks during that pandemic. This was seen as a successful response to the pandemic. The problem was that the government assumed we wouldn’t face such a pandemic again, and never fully replenished the stockpile.

During the first days of the coronavirus outbreak in the US in February 2020, the Federal stockpile only contained 12 million N95 respirator masks – almost 8x less than it had at the start of the swine flu outbreak 10 years ago. The Internal Safety Equipment Association estimated that healthcare workers would actually require 3.5 billion masks for this pandemic, and the stockpile couldn’t be relied upon to supply US healthcare workers, which meant extraordinary measures had to be taken.

The Strategic National Stockpile is funded via congressional appropriations – similar to many other organizations that purchase Federal equipment. Congress had a very limited amount of money to spend, and only the officials in charge of the stockpile dictate how to spend those funds.  The officials in question purchased hundreds of millions of masks in the early 2000s, which quickly dried up by the end of the decade. Funding for additional purchases were also withdrawn, leaving them unprepared for future pandemics.

Conclusion

The Federal stockpile was never actually meant to serve as a “national savor”. The Federal Stockpile’s responsibility was to supply the healthcare worker’s needs for a pandemic that lasts only a single month. Congress never allocated enough money for a multi-month pandemic. The officials in charge hoped that hospitals were going to build their own stockpiles. 

However, most hospitals didn’t create stockpiles in order to save cash flow. In this regard, both private hospitals and the government came up short and unprepared. Once the big hospitals ran out of supplies, so did many pharmacies – and this triggered the price to surge.

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If you’re a business owner, one of your main concerns is protecting your employees and customers. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is one of the largest industries in the world, and the demand for PPE is ever-growing. With the rapid increase in industrialization, businesses established many manufacturing protocols that required workers to wear PPE, even in non-medical fields. These industries require workers to wear protection at all times, even before the pandemic. This guide will show you which industries/businesses require PPE for workers, and how to protect your workers.

During the first month of the Covid-19 crisis, the demand for PPE surge more than ever. Covid originated in a city in Eastern China and spread all over the world, bringing the entire world to a standstill, causing border closures and economic failures. Patients overwhelmed many hospitals around the world, and the stockpiles were running out, with manufacturers failing to meet demand. The pressure on healthcare workers increased, and soon PPE became mandatory for all essential workers,  including supermarket workers, police officers, and more. The following is a list of industries where PPE is mandatory:

  1. The Petroleum/Gas Industry

In the oil and gas sector, PPE was necessary even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. That’s because workers are exposed to thousands of potential hazards arising from exposure to lethal chemicals that cause serious illness, such as cancer. In this industry, protection is paramount. Even though drillers and chain hands historically used to belong under the banner of protection guidelines which are liable for protective equipment – oil contractors also had to be protected from all workplace dangers. The oil/gas industry is seeing massive changes in regard to the protective requirements.

  1. Real Estate/Construction Industry

The construction sector is one of the largest in the US, with billions of dollars invested in new developments each year. As the population grows, the demand for housing increases and the real estate sector is one of the most dangerous sectors that require protective equipment. The PPE industry has historically benefited a lot from the growing construction sector and worker’s protection norms that were laid down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) still apply – all employers must grant their employees adequate protective equipment or face penalties.

  1. Biotech/Pharmaceutical Industry

One of the most dangerous and largest industries in the world, that contributes billions of dollars to the economy, is the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical workers involved in the production and manufacturing of drugs expose themselves to risks equal to that of healthcare workers, and they deal with dangerous chemicals, hazardous substances, and drugs. While the drugs are effective in the treatment of patients, the exposure to drugs in the manufacturing stage poses a major health risk to pharmaceutical workers.

  1. Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing sector encompasses all factories that manufacture tangible products – from airplane parts to computer equipment. Protective equipment is mandatory in all manufacturing spheres, and workers must wear adequate protection. Many factories expose workers to dangerous substances and machines, and workers frequently must shift between different protective equipment to stay safe.

  1. Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry has historically relied on PPE and faced shortages during pandemics, such as Covid-19. The global medical sector saw major disruptions during the pandemic, with shortages on protective masks, respirators, gloves, gowns, and other equipment. The demand for protective equipment has far surpassed the supply, and it is of essential importance for the safety of medical workers.

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COVID-19 instilled a sense of urgency in business owners to implement safety protocols in order to protect their workers and customers. Essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers, was in short supply, and this caused the price to surge. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, we witnessed price gauging and a shortage of basic necessities such as face masks and toilettes. 

The worldwide production capacity increased, and pharmacies took hold of new supplies, hence the price started to normalize in recent weeks, and most of the general public now wear face masks. This begs the question: Should employees be allowed to wear their own masks voluntarily? Should all employees wear identical masks, or should they be allowed to bring their own masks?

This post will focus on the employer-vs-employee relationship during the pandemic, and how business owners should prepare for the future. While employers are legally obliged to supply PPE to workers, many of them might refuse to wear protective equipment or choose to bring their own. Where does the responsibility lie when it comes to the workplace?

EEOC PPE Guidelines

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released guidelines that mandate that all business owners must provide their employees with essential protection, such as face masks, gloves, or gowns which reduce the transmission. This doesn’t only apply to healthcare workers but other essential workers as well.

If your business relies on interaction with the public, such as a retail store or a food store, you should consider purchasing high-level protection for your employees. This includes respirator masks, such as DittoMask, which contain filtration systems that filter virus particles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not impose any legal requirements on businesses or individuals – while they recommend we wear face masks where social distancing is not possible, this is not a legal requirement.

Depending on your state, you may have to provide additional PPE. States all across the US take their own approach to the pandemic. Each governor may mandate their own requirements for facial protection for workers. The most essential piece of PEE is face protection, because the virus spreads by inhaling the particles.

In order to protect the workplace and the public at large, all employees must wear a face mask. As a business owner, you can opt for 2 types of face masks: Surgical masks or respirator masks. The issue with surgical masks is that employees must discard them after a single use, which means you’ll have to replenish your stock daily or weekly. If you purchase respirator masks, your employees can re-use them indefinitely. One such mask is DittoMask.

Develop a Policy On Face Masks

Business owners are finding it difficult to implement safety standards in the workplace, because the suggestions and protocols are changing daily. This makes it hard to keep up, and employers must go the extra mile to communicate these new policies to their employees. It’s better to change your existing policies than not have an emergency plan. Every time you develop a new policy, you should have a legal team ready to back the policy, and implement it through the human resources department to make sure all workers are compliant.

The businesses’ policy on face masks has to be based on guidelines supplied by the CDC and the state regulations. Start by checking your state government’s website and find out whether there are special guidelines or requirements for the workplace in your state. The key here is to implement an effective policy where all employees wear face masks. The specifics of the plan should vary based on your current resources and long-term plans.

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Walmart responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by mandating all associates must wear a face mask. The company started distributing face masks to employees for free. Walmart’s masks were cloth masks and not respirator masks. While associates were allowed to bring their own home-made masks to the job, they had to abide by certain guidelines. Walmart is also making efforts to make customers wear face masks while shopping at their stores in order to minimize exposure for their employees.

Walmart initiated its Covid-19 response plan early on, and started making major changes to its stores early in March 2020 when the pandemic took hold in the US. The first measure implemented by the company was to close down all their stores overnight for emergency cleaning. Walmart proceeded to install sneeze guards/Plexiglas at all checkouts including their pharmacies.

Each store implemented social distancing stickers and regulations to separate customers – including an emergency leave policy. Walmart prioritized areas with elevated cases, such as New Orleans and New York, for emergency Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and sent a higher amount of protection to those areas. All associates had to have their temperature taken before they were allowed to go to work. Those were the early measurements the company took until the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) provided additional guidelines.

  • Walmart encouraged all customers to wear face masks while they’re shopping at their stores.

Recently, most Walmart stores updated their policy on face masks, from voluntary to obligatory, as a result of CDC guidelines. The chief spokesman for CDC recommended wearing face masks in a public setting, which wasn’t their previous official stance. Even though state and municipal governments throughout the United States didn’t require face masks in a public setting, the CDC recommended masks due to the fact that individuals without any symptoms could still transmit the virus. The CDC determined that it’s in everyone’s best interest to wear face masks in order to stop the spread of the disease, and Walmart revised their guidelines accordingly.

Walmart implemented new social distancing regulations afterward. Walmart stores not only recommended face masks, but they started limiting the number of people allowed in the stores. Walmart stores operated at 20% capacity on average, and didn’t allow more than 5 customers per 1000 square feet at any given time. Walmart also initiated special shopping times for high-risk people, such as seniors, healthcare workers, first responders, and customers with medical conditions/disabilities.

Walmart’s spokesman stated: “We hope the new measures are going to continue to enhance customer safety across our facilities while retaining a degree of comfort. However, we should not forget that face masks are merely a health precaution and not a guarantee against the spread of the virus. Face masks do not replace other important steps we must take such as to keep a distance from others and, regularly wash our hands for more than 20 seconds and stay home if we have a temperature of over 100”. Walmart will continue mandating all associates wear face masks and gloves and measure their temperature to reduce the safety risk on other associates and customers.