BC Manufacturers Pivot to create Personal Protective Equipment for Essential Workers in the BC Food Supply Chain

Chilliwack, BC – The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC is the non-profit health and safety association for BC manufacturers and food processors. Beyond the medical sector, the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) is hitting Alliance member companies hard as well, leaving food processors in particular, scrambling to locate appropriate PPE for their frontline workers. 

In response, several local manufacturers have pivoted to meet the need by retooling their factories to design and manufacture PPE themselves. One such manufacturer is METHOD Innovation Partners Inc., of Langley. METHOD is a plastics design, engineering, and manufacturing company whose tag line is ‘WE MAKE IT POSSIBLE™.’ They collaborated with several industry groups, including the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC, BC Food & Beverage, and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, as well as local food processors, including Fine Choice Foods in Richmond, to design a face shield to be used in food processing in response to COVID-19. 

This initiative began when CEO of Fine Choice Foods and Vice-Chair of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC, Jason Longden, connected with the President of METHOD, Carl Philibert, to design face shields to further protect his food manufacturing staff. 

“It is absolutely critical at these times to take every proactive measure to protect our workers in food manufacturing, which is considered an essential service—workers who come to work every day to provide food to our communities,” said Longden. “PPE was very difficult to source, and I felt it was my obligation to find a creative partner to make these important face shields for my staff.”  

To help ensure frontline workers knew about this important supply chain, Rick Gibbs, President of Neutron Factory Works and Chairman of BC Food & Beverage got involved.  

“Through the efforts of the industry associations, we’ve successfully connected BC’s leading manufacturers to our local food producers to provide PPE and other essential supplies to frontline workers,” said Gibbs. 

“While the industry is doing everything we can to ensure workers continue to work safely, we simply cannot keep up with the demand,” Gibbs added. “We need immediate government support to procure large volumes of essential supplies from suppliers local and overseas and to assist local manufactures in retooling. As each hour goes by, sourcing necessities is becoming exponentially more challenging. The potential for a food crisis is very real.” 

METHOD started with an open-source design, and when one of their creative designers stepped up with enhancements, it was clear that this would be an important item at this unprecedented time. METHOD then worked with Fine Choice Foods to ensure what they would produce locally would meet stringent food safety standards. METHOD can produce this critical PPE locally and quickly and can incorporate custom design features when required. They can currently produce more than 2,000 shields per day. 

These shields are a clear PETG plastic, are sterilizable, have high impact strength, and can be cleaned and reused for multiple shifts. The use of PPE in the food processing sector helps protect frontline workers who perform critical work in food production and supports the supply chain of essential goods in British Columbia. It also provides a level of comfort to workers who can feel additional stress working during this crisis.

An associate member of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance, Grizzly Force, who provides temporary labour to the manufacturing and food processing sectors, connected with METHOD through a network of partners. Grizzly Force is now providing the METHOD FS1 face shields free of charge to employers who use their platform to fill their staffing needs. 

While the shortage of personal protective equipment remains an important concern for frontline health care workers, PPE is also critical to protect our food supply chain and keep BC food processing workers safe. Several BC manufacturers, including METHOD, are working to address this gap during this critical time.

“We are extremely proud at METHOD to be part of ensuring our essential industries have the necessary PPE to continue to work and feel safe,” said Philibert. “My talented team is committed to making these face shields as quickly and efficiently as possible so that they can be in the hands of these workers immediately,” said Philibert.  “I am delighted to work with the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC to help their members get access to them and thank them for their support.” 

“While industry associations such as BC Food & Beverage and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters work with government agencies to help secure the supply of PPE to support our industries, our role as a health and safety association is to help manufacturers and food processors implement the plans and operational changes to maintain a vital food supply,” noted Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC CEO Lisa McGuire. “We have safety advisors on call, and resources online, to support employers with the advice and training they need to protect our province’s essential food production workers.”

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About the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC

The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC (www.safetyalliancebc.cais the not-for-profit health and safety association for British Columbia manufacturers and food processors and the WorkSafeBC Certifying Partner for the Occupational Safety Standard of Excellence (the Certificate of Recognition, or COR, program for the manufacturing sector). The Alliance is committed to transforming the health and safety culture of organizations through effective OHS management systems, training, and certification.

For media inquiries, please contact Lisa Thibault, Marketing and PR Specialist, 604.991.7423 | l.thibault@safetyalliancebc.ca

About METHOD Innovation Partners

Since 1981 METHOD has built the reputation of being a trusted partner by successfully bringing customers’ products to market. Whether it’s the creation of point-of-sale displays, OEM or After Market products or the re-engineering of entire manufacturing processes, METHOD has worked tirelessly across a wide variety of industries to redefine what is possible.

www.methodinnovates.com

About Fine Choice Foods

Fine Choice Foods is a Canadian-owned, family-run business, dedicated to delivering quality Asian foods for the North American Market since 1986. Specializing in hand-rolled spring rolls, potstickers, wontons and more, the company has grown from a small store on Cambie St. in Vancouver employing 3 people, to a plant in Richmond employing over 115 people.

About the BC Food and Beverage Association

BC Food & Beverage is a not-for-profit organization representing all segments of the food, beverage, and nutraceutical processing industry, and to coordinate common industry activities and resources under one umbrella. The Association represents micro, small, medium, and large processing companies in BC, and has more than 500 member companies.

For more information and SKYPE interviews:  CEO James Donaldson, TEL: 604-371-4245 james@bcfb.ca