MOTORING NEWS - As the number of recorded COVID-19 cases continues to climb in South Africa, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) has entered its fourth month of producing protective face shields at its Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria.
To date, Ford has assembled 285 000 COVID-19 face shields, with the focus on assisting the South African government's efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus, while protecting frontline medical workers and public health officials.
Based on the latest statistics from the national COVID-19 website (www.sacoronavirus.co.za), over 224 000 positive cases have been identified with, sadly, over 3 600 deaths recorded. Gauteng now has the highest number of cases, followed by the Western Cape and Eastern Cape - with between 8 000 and 10 000 new cases being reported daily.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in immeasurable ways, and forced everyone to rethink everything from the way we do business, go about our everyday tasks such as shopping and schooling, and even how we interact with family and friends," says Neale Hill, MD of FMCSA. "It has also united humanitarian organisations and the general public in support of the COVID-19 health initiatives, and in reaching out to the most vulnerable members of our society.
"Through our face shields project, we are exceptionally proud to be playing an important role in protecting the country's public health workers who are at the frontline battling this devastating pandemic, as they are most at risk of contracting this disease at a time when we need them most," he adds.
The shields, which wrap around the user's face, are being produced to global health standards to protect the user's eyes, nose and mouth from exposure to the coronavirus which is easily spread through coughing and sneezing. It uses a clear polyethylene shield, polyurethane foam padding and an elastic latex fabric headband to keep it in place.
Each unit is packaged with clear instructions on how to wear the shield correctly, along with cleaning and storage guidelines. They are reusable and should be sanitised after each use, and are designed to be worn with a cloth face mask that covers the nose and mouth.
The shields have been in production at the Silverton Assembly Plant since the beginning of April, with all of the funds received from FMCSA, the Ford dealers, suppliers and business partners, as well as Absa Group, going directly into purchasing the face shield materials. Ford has sponsored all the labour costs for the assembly and packaging throughout the project - with up to 85 employees involved in the unique production line located in a temporary, fully sanitised facility at the plant.
"Through the various contributions received, we have so far managed to donate almost 140 000 face shields to the Department of Health's centralised warehouse in Centurion," explains Ockert Berry, FMCSA's VP of Operations. "We have also supported various hospitals, clinics, old age homes and non-profit organisations with face shield donations."
Over 1 100 face shields were also recently donated to 25 wildlife conservation and education projects around the country that are supported by the Ford Wildlife Foundation. This will help these non-profit organisations to safely continue their important work in protecting threatened species and habitats.
"We have just delivered the final batch of the 50 000 face shields procured by the US Department of Defense, and it's fantastic to see the United States government not only supporting our face shields project, but also doing its part to help protect the citizens of South Africa, and those of our neighbouring countries," Berry states.
Ford has been doing everything possible to protect its employees, with a phased-in approach to restart its operations from 1 June at the Silverton Assembly Plant, and at the Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth. Along with the comprehensive and ongoing cleaning of its facilities and workstations, the company conducts daily screening for all personnel entering the plants, and provides the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Workstations and common areas have also been reconfigured to ensure appropriate social distancing measures are maintained.
Both plants have created dedicated on-site Flu Clinics, which are fully equipped to handle employees or contractors that exhibit cold or flu-like symptoms during working hours. The medical staff are specially trained to evaluate the person's condition and advise if further testing or treatment is required. Protocols are in place for contact tracing, self-isolation, case reporting as well as intensive cleaning and disinfection processes.
Additionally, all administration, purchasing, logistics, sales and marketing staff that are able to work from home continue to do so, to limit the number of people on-site.
Similarly, Ford dealers across the country have adopted stringent health, hygiene and social distancing standards - including full sanitisation of vehicles before and after test drives, and for vehicle servicing.
How can you help?
Donations to support the production and donation of face shields are welcomed from individuals and businesses. Any donations, big or small, will help protect our valued medical and essential services personnel and limit the spread of COVID-19 to those most at risk.
Ford has partnered with the Gift of the Givers Foundation, which has kindly provided the banking facility for all donations, which can be made as follows:
Account Name: Gift of the Givers
Institution: Standard Bank
Account number: 052137228
Branch Code: 057525
Deposit Reference: Ford
Any queries regarding making donations can be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org, using the reference: Ford SA COVID-19.
Watch the video on Ford's COVID-19 face shields production at its Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria: https://youtu.be/Il1ZdcvwSsg