In Pennsylvania, 43 petrochemical plant workers went above and beyond their job descriptions by moving into their workplace for a month. In 28 days they managed to produce a whopping 40 million pounds of polypropylene (PPE,) a necessary material that makes up our hygienic and protective face masks and gloves.
They chose to live in the Braskem America factory in order to reduce the amount of exposure they would have. And it wasn’t easy – not only were they living at work, but they would work on 12-hour shifts, too. But their efforts aren’t going unnoticed. Because of their sacrifices, they produced enough PPE materials for 500 million N95 masks or 1.5 billion surgical masks.
Adapting to Their New Routine
The operations shift supervisor, Joe Boyce, explained how things worked behind closed factory doors. “We came up with a chart for housekeeping chores so we could all clean the bathrooms and clean up after meals,” he said. “It wasn’t long before we’re all sitting in the same spots at dinner.”
They even had to bring their own mattresses to sleep on. Joe kept it simple, bringing in just an air mattress, toothbrush, and shaving kit. But it all worked out as the employees were paid for all of the 24 hours they were on-site each day. They also benefitted from an automatic wage increase for both the hours they worked and the hours they had off.
Positive Until the End
Impressively, they managed to maintain good spirits for the entirety of the 28 days. As people weren’t coming in or out, they didn’t need to wear protection against each other. “We’ve almost been the lucky ones,” Joe asserted, as “I haven’t had to stand 6 feet from somebody.” Rightly so, the Braskem America CEO Mark Nikolich spoke of how “It just makes you immensely proud to be associated with a team like that.”
They also had no intention of making their sacrifice public information. Joe explained that they “were just happy to be able to help.” Unexpectedly for the workers, people were so moved by their sacrifices that they chose to reach out: “We’ve been getting messages on social media from nurses, doctors, EMS workers, saying thank you for what we’re doing.”