N95 respirators can be termed as the year’s most talked-about product and rightfully so. The respirator has managed to become a fan favorite when it comes to personal protective equipment. With a commendable filtration efficacy of 95% and a sealed fit that ensures maximum safety, the N95 is the preferred choice of healthcare workers, construction workers, firefighters, and even people working in laboratories. Since the N95 can filter out all kinds of airborne particulates, it has become indispensable to everyone involved in professions where one’s health might be at risk and demand protection from particulates floating in the air.
In addition to this, N95 respirators are approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and recommended by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among the most distinctive qualities of the respirator is its cup-like appearance with headbands placed on the upper and lower side of the mask and the additional valve that is also included in some N95s that allow the user to breathe easily. The advent of the coronavirus pandemic increased the importance of N95s immensely. This also led to the shortage of this product in market places and the few handful stores that were dealing in N95s at the time were asking for a rather unreasonable amount in return.
The suppliers and manufacturers alike had adapted to the practice of price gouging that was prevalent at the time. Manufacturers were also struggling to ramp up their production and meet the amplified need for this respirator. Despite the high price, N95s were flying off shelves and the healthcare and essential workers of the country were struggling because there weren’t enough respirators to facilitate them during these crucial times.
Manufacturing of N95 masks
N95 respirators are obtained through the melt blowing process which is also responsible for the forming of the innermost layer of the mask which filters out the contaminants of the air. These respirators are made from non-woven polypropylene fabric and a fine mesh of synthetic polymer fibers as well. Before purchasing an N95 mask, a user must observe fit testing that will determine which size, model, and style of the N95 is the most suitable for them. The fitting test is also prescribed by OSHA and the agency also demands annual fit testing to be done on all workers.
The shortage crisis prompted all N95 manufacturers including major ones like 3M and Honeywell to ramp up their production and the output of respirators. To ensure this, manufacturing companies adopted newer methods and techniques to overcome this problem. Companies started hiring more staff for the execution of this task and even directed their workers to start working overtime. The hiring of newer laborers at the peak of the pandemic was a very brave step indeed which also provided the people of the working class a source of earning too.
Besides this, companies also resorted to converting their facility centers to manufacturing facilities to meet the highly increased demand for the product. Two of the more notable companies, 3M and Honeywell participated with the utmost enthusiasm to facilitate healthcare workers all over America with face masks such as the N95 and other necessary personal protective equipment. However, apart from these two well-known companies, many others actively took part in helping frontline workers out by manufacturing N95 masks in bulk quantity.
Multinational fashion brands like H&M and Nordstrom also contributed with the former rearranging its supply chain and manufacturing at-least 100,000 pieces of face masks and the latter sewing more than a million face masks to facilitate the healthcare workers. The spirit of helping the frontline workers also extended to other influential brands like L’oreal, FedEx, Ford, SC Johnson, etc. All of these brands made collective efforts to curb the spread of this virus and to safeguard the lives of the frontline workers.
Are N95s manufactured in factories?
N95s, like other components of personal protective equipment, are manufactured in factories. Most of the company’s manufacturing N95 respirators also deal in other PPE items including goggles, hazmat suits, hearing aids, face masks that are disposable as well reusable. Well known N95 manufacturers like Honeywell and 3M have multiple factories operating in multiple states and even countries. These two companies and many others as well have been manufacturing N95 masks for a very long time and are regarded as pioneers when it comes to PPE.
During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, manufacturers were left with no choice but that of ramping up their production. So to do this, many manufacturers converted their warehoused and facility to factories and doubled their staff by hiring more workers to speed up the manufacturing process and to gain the maximum amount of output possible in the shortest time.
N95 respirators are unlike other face masks that are worn for protection. An N95 is a particulate filtering face-piece that claims to filter out 95% of all airborne particulates except for oil. The product is in high demand because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and will likely remain one till the process of vaccination is underway. There was even a point when getting one’s hand on this mere respirator was about as difficult as buying a diamond. To overcome this crisis, manufacturers ramped up their production and also set up more factories to increase the output of N95 masks.