OHS Canada Magazine

N95 masks in full production as world faces further COVID-19 spread

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March 25, 2020
By PJ Boyd

Hazmat Health & Safety Occupational Hygiene 3M COVID-19 Honeywell MSA N95 Masks Production SW Safety

As demand outpaces supply, manufacturers get creative

Production of N95 masks has ramped up as the world grapples with the effects of COVID-19. (Getty Images)

Companies across North America have begun extensive productions and distribution of protective face masks as COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide.

Both consumers and health professionals alike are searching for more personal protective equipment (PPE) to lower the risk and slow down the path of the coronavirus.

With confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada approaching 2,000, more people are taking the safety precautions necessary to keep themselves and others safe from virus spreading.

This has included the shutting down of non-essential businesses, placing people of higher risk in self-isolation and others working from home.

High demand for face masks

For those who cannot work remotely, PPE has been one of the first purchases they consider — especially face masks.


The N95 surgical mask is a personal protective mask that is used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face.

Many distributors and manufacturers of the N95 have begun hiring on more staff to allow for faster productions.

Others are trying to distribute and donate to people in need, as well as to health professionals. The need, however, is much higher than the supply.

3M, Honeywell prioritizing orders

3M expects demand to outpace supply for the foreseeable future, according to board chairman and CEO Michael Roman.

“Our products — including respirators, surgical and procedural masks and hand sanitizers — are being used globally in the response to the outbreak. We expect demand for these products to outpace supply for the foreseeable future,” he said in a press release.

“We have notified our authorized distributors that we are prioritizing orders to help serve our base business — including hospitals — due to high global demand.”

Other companies such as Honeywell have begun expansions in their manufacturing into production of the N95 mask. In doing so, they plan to produce millions of N95 disposable respirators to support the U.S. government’s efforts in battling COVID-19.

“Our Rhode Island facility already produces industry-leading safety gear and soon will play a critical role in supplying the Strategic National Stockpile with N95 masks,” stated Honeywell chairman and CEO Darius Adamczyk in a press release.

MSA donates entire stock

As more N95 face masks hit the production table and more consumers and health professionals begin to seek them out, distribution companies such as MSA Safety have begun to help out as well.

Although they do not produce the masks themselves, MSA Safety has pledged to donate their entire stock of N95s to health professionals in Pittsburgh.

“These 65,000 respirators are directly helping medical professionals working throughout our region. We are also working with the White House to determine how MSA can respond to the administration’s request for other types of respirators that could be used in the COVID-19 battle,” said a press release by MSA.

They are among many companies that are planning to use their resources to help further the production of PPE during the pandemic battle of COVID-19.

In Canada and the U.S., car companies have also begun to expand their productions to contribute to health-care workers.

These car companies include Ford, General Motors, and Tesla. For their part, they plan to partner with manufacturers of medical devices to help with the production of ventilators, respirators, and face shields.

Further PPE needs expected

As the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak continues and the demand on PPE increases, other PPE items will also become scarce.

With the ongoing need for PPE, SW Safety — which specializes in hand health — is warning of the eventual shortage and need for nitrile and latex gloves.

“At a time of increased demand, it has set a path towards a global shortage of single-use gloves,” stated company president Belle Chou.

“It is essential that we start to build awareness and encourage those in non-critical care environments, to help manage the available supply of single-use nitrile and latex gloves the same way they have for N95 masks.”

As COVID-19 continues to spread and more distancing measures are put in place, these companies will be making the first steps in helping with the production of PPE resources.

PJ Boyd is an intern with Annex Business Media.


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