Con Edison Helps Outfit Healthcare Workers Against Coronavirus

A technician at the Con Edison machine shop in the Bronx making one of the 40,000 face shields that are being produced this month for healthcare workers in Westchester.

Con Edison is known for bringing electricity to its customers throughout portions of the metropolitan area. This month its technicians, managers and engineers are also delivering critical protective equipment to those in the trenches in the battle against the coronavirus.

The utility is donating 40,000 face shields made at its multipurpose machine shop in the Bronx by members of Local 1-2 to healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients at Westchester County hospitals and other facilities.

On Friday afternoon, Con Edison Vice President Bronx-Westchester Electric Operations Shakira Wilson presented the first 6,000 shields packed in boxes to County Executive George Latimer at the Department of Emergency Services in Valhalla. The remaining 34,000 will be delivered by the end of the month and will be distributed by the county.

“We are all working together to get everyone through the pandemic safely and we can think of none other than to support the healthcare workers on the front lines risking their lives to save others,” Wilson said.

To make the face shields, workers use 500-pound rolls of thin, plastic sheeting and use a knife to cut three-foot by eight-foot sections. Then, 40 of those sections are placed on a piece of plywood with another piece of plywood on top.

The stack is fed into a machine with a robotic arm that fires a thin, high-pressure spray of water and garnet to cut the plywood and plastic sheets. One sheet makes 12 shields, and in less than three hours, 480 shields can be produced. Two shifts of workers are making the protective equipment, turning out 4,000 a day. The shields soak in a solution of water and Windex before being wiped cleaned and packed 600 to a box for shipping.

Each lightweight shield is one piece, with ties that hook behind the wearer’s head to hold the protection in place. The shields are easy to clean, which makes them reusable.

“The folks working on this take great pride in it,” said Nurrani Alli, a construction manager in Con Edson’s Central Operations. “The fight against coronavirus requires a collective effort with every one of us contributing. We’re happy to play a role by providing healthcare workers with equipment they need to take care of us.”

Several weeks ago, Chris Bentley, a section manager in Con Edison’s Central Engineering group, and John Constable, a senior engineer, began discussing whether the company could design and make equipment to help healthcare workers. They came up with a design for the one-piece shields.

They researched the material Con Edison would need to make the shields and decided they saw a match. An initial run produced about 100 shields and went smoothly enough to convince the team to begin mass production.

Latimer said he and the personnel that will be using the shield are grateful to Con Edison for their efforts.

“It’s going to be a great asset to our healthcare workers, and overall, 40,000 by the end of the month, it’s a tremendous contribution,” he said.