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Derek Mundy, owner of Poison Graphics, holds a reusable face shield – a piece of personal protective equipment that the company began manufacturing after the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. The GNWT recently placed an order for 250 of the face shields.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, Hay River’s Poison Graphics has been doing its part to respond with the special manufacturing skills it offers.

That includes making reusable face shields, which it calls North Shield.

Derek Mundy, the owner of the business located in Old Town, said the whole staff of Poison Graphics is proud to create products that will help businesses reopen after being forced to close by the Covid-19 crisis.

“When we looked into the requirements for the shields, it was clear right away that we would be able to make these in-house,” he said.

The GNWT recently ordered 250 of the face shields.

Mundy explained they can help people in various professions.

“Anyone that works within close contact with the public, such as barber shops, healthcare workers, dental care, and if/when schools reopen they could be used by teachers and classroom assistants that need to work in close proximity to their students,” he said.

Mundy noted that, when the GNWT placed its order, it emphasized that meeting demand from small businesses should be the priority, and Poison Graphics has heeded that.

The shields are made out of polycarbonate with a foam pad that rests against a person’s forehead. A headband weaves through the face shield, creating space for air circulation to prevent fogging and allows enough space for goggles or glasses, and it clips together behind the wearer’s head.

“To be honest, the most challenging part was finding material,” said Mundy. “We were a little late getting started compared to large corporations like Bauer, and by this time every supplier I called was on back order indefinitely.”

However, one of Poison Graphics’ regular suppliers in Edmonton found 20 sheets of polycarbonate in Ontario – enough to make 450 shields.

“Luckily, the local Home Hardware had foam in stock, so we took everything they had on the shelf,” said Mundy, adding the store also offered a much-appreciated discount when it found out what the foam would be used to make. “Then when material arrived, it was time to come up with a way to turn it all into face shields.”

The shields protect the wearer from respiratory droplets from others that might contain the coronavirus.

As of last week, Poison Graphics had already made and sent out roughly 75, and expected to be finished another 250 by this week.

“We expect to make 450 right now, but as long as the demand is there we will source material and keep making them,” said Mundy.

According to a June 1 news release from the GNWT, Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory’s chief public health officer, authorized two NWT manufacturers to create reusable face shields meeting Health Canada specifications for use in public settings in the NWT.

Poison Graphics and ArcTech Engrave of Yellowknife each submitted proposals and specifications that were evaluated and accepted by Kandola and her staff.

The GNWT said the critical personal protective equipment (PPE) has been secured for businesses and care providers.

“If there’s anything we’ve learned from across the globe, it’s that to rise to the challenge of Covid, we need to use every resource available,” said Health and Social Services Minister Diane Thom. “I’m pleased to see even more private sector players stepping up, and stable, reliable, local supply chains growing.”

Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Katrina Nokleby also recognized the importance of buying locally.

“It is important for us to consider how much economic stimulus exists within our own procurement policies and practices,” said Nokleby. “Physical distancing measures are likely to be in place for a long time, and additional PPE will be required for many businesses as they prepare to reopen. It makes good economic sense for NWT businesses to supply this local demand.”

Mundy noted Poison Graphics has made a lot of unique things over the years other than signs – from jet boat wings to finger puppets.

And now, along with the face shields, that also includes door hangers advising people that someone is at high risk from Covid-19.

“We believe in people over profit, so, when first confronted with the coronavirus, we quickly manufactured plastic door hangers for people at high risk and offered them for free to anyone that wanted one, and have also covered all shipping costs,” said Mundy. “To date, we have supplied enough door hangers for over 1,600 households.”

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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