What to Know If You Want To Pivot To Make, Source, Sell or Donate PPE

Have questions about how to get started? Your peers, OIA and our partners at SIA and OR have answers.

We’ve been speaking to several companies who have successfully pivoted their production capabilities to make masks, face shields, gowns, ventilators and other critical equipment for frontline workers. Most of them had many of the same questions you’re probably asking, so we’ve compiled their insights and some helpful resources here. We will continue to update and add to this as we get more information.

Personal protective equipment. While government and media sources use the term PPE quite generally to refer to wearable devices or products that can prevent the transmission of viruses, there’s actually a bit more nuance governing the use of the term in product branding and marketing materials. Under normal circumstances, for products to be marketed, imported and/or distributed as medical-grade PPE, they have to meet certain government-regulated safety standards. Likewise, for products to be accepted and used by hospitals and healthcare providers, they need to meet safety standards.

However, amid the COVID pandemic, government agencies are working to make and communicate term-limited exceptions to these standards and to expedite what are usually slow and laborious certification processes. Similarly, some hospitals and other facilities are accepting non-medical PPE — including “homemade” masks and face shields, and non-indicated eye protection such as snow goggles.

And with the recent recommendation that all citizens wear facemasks in public, there is a broad and growing need for nonmedical “PPE.”

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has a lot of helpful information and resources pertaining to PPE. According to their website, under normal circumstances, in order to be considered “medical grade” and labeled as such, PPE products must be certified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). However, the FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for certain products during the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 2, FEMA issued guidelines for procuring critical PPE, including face shields and goggles. There’s a lot of information out there, but we’ve found the following pages to be quite informative.

FDA COVID-19 EUA INFORMATION

APRIL 3, FDA EUA FOR NON-NIOSH-APPROVED FACE MASKS & FAQS

FEMA GUIDELINES FOR CRITICAL PPE, INCLUDING FACE SHIELDS AND GOGGLES

NIOSH DIRECTORY OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

FDA PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR INFECTION CONTROL

CDC PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

The short answer is everyone. There is a nationwide need not only for healthcare workers but for all essential workers and, as of earlier this week, every American citizen under guidance from the CDC to wear masks in public. People working at the grocery stores, nursing homes, gas stations and other essential services need masks but don’t always get first dibs on certified, medical-grade PPE, so there is an expansive market for “homemade” masks and non-certified gowns, gloves and eye protection.

Join our webinar Tuesday, April 14 at 11 a.m. to hear how Chaco, DPS Skis, Outdoor Research and the North Carolina Recreation Coalition got an early start on this and what lessons and advice they have for anyone ramping up.

Register for the webinar

Those groups and others we’ve heard from agree: Grassroots action is the fastest path to success. Reach out directly to the hospitals, nursing homes and other frontline essential service providers in your own community to find out what they need and/or to let them know what you can make, source or donate. That’s what James Morin with Flowfold did, and the hospital responded immediately with a list of needs and specs. Within days, the company was producing face shields. As Cory Higgs of Jetty told OR in their #weareCommunity conversation, “Help your circle.”

The North Carolina Office of Outdoor Recreation and the North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Coalition partnered with a few other local groups to quickly build SupplyConnector.org that connects manufacturers, suppliers and frontline providers across the country. America’s Apparel Producer’s Network facilitates an online Sourcing Center that allows members to post their capabilities and their needs on an industry bulletin board.

We have also heard from several state OREC office directors that they are working to establish similar directories and matchmaking platforms to connect those in need with those who can provide products. If your state has an OREC office, reach out for more info. We will update this list with state specific resources as they come online.

Resources – National and State by State

SupplyConnecter.org

AAPN Sourcing Center

Other Resources

A FEW INSPIRATIONAL STORIES

These companies have already begun working with local partners to produce and deliver PPE. We will update this list as we learn more.

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