SUBSCRIBE NOW

One step for man...one giant leap for PPE?

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Whether it’s for astronauts or health care workers, ILC Dover has always been about protecting people. That mission has taken off.

“When we see these emergency situations arise in the world, ILC Dover is always at its best,” said Paul Cannon, vice president of marketing. The Frederica-based company, best known for making spacesuits, has been making personal protective equipment since the 1980s.

They have stepped up during previous outbreaks of Ebola and SARS, and now the demand for protective equipment has hit record highs. “The demand for our PPE systems [is] greater than 1,000% of our normal demand,” Cannon said.

ILC Dover specializes in what they call PAPR, or powered air purifying respirator, systems. It’s a protective hood that goes over someone’s head and includes a blower or filter system to bring in clean air. There are different models to protect pharmaceutical and health care workers from a wide range of contaminants.

By the end of March, ILC Dover’s engineers realized they needed to increase their supply of hoods due to a critical supply shortage. They designed a new model, called the EZ BioHood, which Cannon said is easy to use and provides more comfort and visibility.

“Within a four to five week period of time, we went from the initial design of the product all the way through development, and now it’s in production and we’re shipping them to customers as we speak,” he said. Part of that is thanks to a fast-tracked approval by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

One of the biggest advantages of this new design is a clear material that goes all the way around the worker’s head. This allows for increased visual communication with patients, Cannon said.

“Imagine being a patient of a health care worker who is wearing a mask that’s covering their face. It just makes communication that much more difficult,” he said. “It’s really reassuring to the patients to see the facial expressions of the doctor or the nurse or the health care worker that is trying to diagnose and ultimately make them feel better.”

The PAPR systems have gone to hospitals like Bayhealth. “PAPRs are essential to keeping our staff safe,” said Bayhealth President and CEO Terry M. Murphy. “We were very happy when ILC Dover reached out to see if we needed any PAPRs, as we were starting to run low on our supply. As a result of them stepping in, we have been able to continue to support and protect our staff who are caring for COVID-19 patients.”

With this new hood and increased production came new jobs. ILC Dover hired 40 to 50 people to help with a new production process. While Cannon said they have filled that immediate need, they still have some other jobs open and will continue to grow. The company has new owners as of February.

With more than 800 employees globally, the company has taken precautions to protect its workers. All employees not directly supporting production are working from home, the production areas have been reorganized to create more separation and each employee must take their temperature before they enter the building.

“The safety of our employees is a top priority,” said ILC Dover President and CEO Fran DiNuzzo. “To protect our workforce, we made adjustments early and quickly. We continue to stay ahead of guidelines from the CDC, WHO and the state of Delaware in our procedures and process for protecting our employees.”

There is a sign that says “Heroes work here” posted in front of the office.

“We genuinely appreciate the work they are doing and are very, very proud of all these essential folks that are getting all these really critical products out to people who need them so desperately,” he said.

For more visit, https://www.ilcdover.com.