Helping Frontline Workers: Where it All Began
During early March, as COVID-19 was gaining evermore worldwide attention and as cases began to appear in Canada, we were watching with concern and wondering what we could do to help. As my wife works in a pharmacy and deals with customers that are sick, I was worried about her risk of infection. At the same time, I wondered how many other frontline workers must be in the same situation.
This led to several hours of research to figure out what other countries and frontline professions were doing to reduce these risks. The concepts were simple but seemed to be very effective and went something like this; 1) clearly inform customers that were exhibiting symptoms not to enter the pharmacy, 2) make sure those that enter stay a safe distance apart and finally, 3) ensure there is a physical barrier between the pharmacist and the customer. Further searches revealed that there were no products that offered these features, yet they seemed easy enough to make.
Over the next few days I reached out to my partners at KRUVE and started discussing ideas and how we could flatten the curve. Everyone was immediately on board and eager to help. We discussed that this is not just a pharmacy issue, but really any business that interacts with multiple customers and especially the frontline workers. With our background in product development and supply chain management we immediately went to the drawing board to think about easy to implement, scalable solutions to protect our frontline and essential workers so they could focus on what they do best. Over the next few days we consulted our friends and family that work on the frontlines to see if the idea had merit. Among other things, we discussed different material options and potential production and distribution challenges. Within a matter of days we had made several prototypes, some out of plexiglass, some out of foam board, as well as heavy duty cardboard and clear window film, signage for directing people within the store and helping them maintain a proper social distance.
With the help and support of local businesses (Royal Containers, Goldrich, A Little Jess, Polimex, Colourstream, Pharmasave and more), we were able to quickly manufacture and install a few prototypes for testing. The response was very positive and we were thrilled to help any way we could.
After evaluating the functionality and adjusting the designs, we settled on a shield made of coated heavy-duty cardboard with a tough transparent film, as this type of shield could be manufactured at scale. These could be flat packed for shipping and easily assembled on location with no special tools required.
In order to get this project out as quickly as possible and to as many people that need it, we decided to make the entire project open source and freely distribute the plans for the structure and all the posters and decals.
We are very pleased with how the initiative is progressing in such a short period of time and we’re sure it will continue to grow.