By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
A local company plans to begin manufacturing plastic face shields which will be sold to the Ministry of Health to aid in the COVID-19 fight.
Peter Bates, CEO of the Sign Man, said the Bahamian company realised it had the materials and skills to move into personal protective equipment (PPE) production, given there is increased demand and short supply around the world.
“We have all sorts of equipment and skill sets and materials to make plastic signs,” Mr Bates explained about his company. “So when this COVID-19 pandemic became evident here and it was obvious that personal protective equipment was in short supply, I figured out if I can make a flat sign, I can make a curved sign and it doesn’t have to have any information on it. So we got together and we made a very high quality prototype face shield. These actually have the ability to be fully adjusted so as not to touch your nose. So you can wear the shield and not feel claustrophobic.”
The Sign Man built the prototype and presented it to Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands who was so impressed he posted pictures of the face shields on his Facebook page. “Once we begin the manufacturing process we can produce hundreds of these in a very short period of time,” said Mr Bates. “We agreed to do it at a special price for the Ministry of Health. “They are in short supply and the minister specifically said the ministry will buy a quantity from us and see how it goes. So we are in the process right now setting up the manufacturing and fabrication assembly lines and getting the material here in Nassau.”
The Sign Man is getting set to produce 5,000 face shields which are made out of high quality thick, clear plastic.
“They will be produced, initially, exclusively for the Ministry of Health because they need a large quantity. Once the manufacturing process starts and we know that we can deliver them very quickly to the Ministry of Health, we will then open it up to the general public because we have had a lot of interest from people who may not be frontline health workers, but need the same protection because of their line of work. We think we can manufacture up to 300 face masks per day if we have to.”
The Sign Man manufactured full face shields can be completely immersed in alcohol without damage. So sterilisation of the shields will not be a problem, according to Mr Bates. He said the shields are only known as ‘plastic face shields’ for now, as The Sign Man has not yet gone through testing with the appropriate medical authorities which are authorised to deem them ‘medical face masks’.
After the Ministry of Health’s order is satisfied, Mr Bates said The Sign Man will consider supplying store owners and people whose work has them in constant contact with others with the face shields. The company is also looking into manufacturing plastic barriers for cashiers.