More than 40 employees of Braskem America, a Pennsylvania manufacturing company, opted to live at the plant for 28 day to help make material needed to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to CNN affiliate WPVI, the company makes polypropylene, "a raw material needed to make N95 masks, medical gowns, and other protective gear." After 28 days with almost no outside contact, the 40+ employees recently clocked out and went home.
In a press release, Braskem said, "We have positioned 'live-in' manufacturing teams operating in isolation at key facilities, among other measures, to help ensure the health and safety of our team members who are working as an essential service throughout this crisis to keep these key supply lines running."
The crews worked alternating 12-hour shifts to maximize production times. Although they were staying in the factory and didn't have close contact with friends or family, there were several "drive-by" visits to support their efforts. CNN reports, "The company gave them an increase in wages and provided beds, kitchens, groceries, internet access, and iPads."
Then, on Sunday, April 19, they were able to clock out and return home. Operations shift supervisor Joe Boyce told WPVI, "There's been a glow in everyone's eyes."
While they were no doubt excited to be able to punch out after 28 days and return to their loved ones, they knew what they were doing to help has provided an essential service. Boyce said, "We're truly honored to be able to give back and support people we will never meet in some way."
And it's bittersweet for these employees to return to the world and realized a lot has changed in the past month. It's been hard for everyone to keep up with the news, let alone those who've been working tirelessly every day.
"We've almost been the lucky ones, I'll say for the last 28 days," Boyce said, "because I haven't had to stand six feet from somebody. I haven't had to put a mask on."
Even though it's been a tough sacrifice, Boyce said that Braskem employees happily did what they could to help those who are on the frontlines risking their lives every day. "All the first responders, all the people on the frontlines, we thank you," he said. "That's what makes our job easy to do."
After these brave people punched out, they went home to spend a week's vacation with their families before they return for a normal work week. They also received an increase in wages for their effort and sacrifice.
These are the kinds of surprising stories about people behind the scenes whom you don't necessarily hear about regularly and who are working so, so hard to do everything they can to help beat this virus. Braskem employees sacrificed a ton to make sure healthcare workers are getting what they need. And they aren't the only ones.