When the North Forge Fabrication Lab became SAFE Work Certified by Made Safe, we identified hazards and risk factors that have the potential to cause harm. Through the countless hours of risk control and hazard elimination, we never identified a pandemic. Little did we know that in March 2020, we would face new challenges that we never thought we’d have to prepare for.
After several Fab Lab Safety Committee meetings, the decision was made to remain open while monitoring and enforcing the information from the Government of Manitoba. New policies were put into place to ensure the safety of our members, including:
- COVID-19 positive test result protocols
- Mandatory disinfecting and cleaning protocols
- A new channel on Slack to book time in an equipment room (one person per room)
- Social distancing policies
When members arrive at the Fabrication Lab, they are greeted with important notices on the door with face masks and nitrile gloves. A cleaning station is located inside the Lab, and a strict cleaning protocol is enforced on all equipment.
Fab Lab members were eager to step up to the plate and immediately started producing prototypes that were on the Government of Manitoba’s list of needed medical equipment.
On April 2, the provincial government announced they needed surgical/procedure masks. A team led by Tom Tessier, Matt Olson and Phil Dupuis in conjunction with Head & Neck Surgery and health care professionals quickly developed a face shield prototype that can be worn by doctors and surgeons. The team is now working with a local manufacturer to produce in mass quantities.
Manufacturing Mentor, Matt Olson also created a new business, Winnipeg Disinfection Services, providing fogging machines that can disinfect large spaces.
With over one hundred members, the Fabrication Lab has not lost steam during this time as members continue with their startup business or refocus on making something new. Richard Venzon was featured in the Manitoba Filipino Journal with the sign he made for the Kultivation Festival. He also utilized the 3D printer to create door openers to enable members to open doors at the Lab with only their foot. Amy Krahn created ava.j.foster, a business for her carvings and critters.
Through this trying time, we have experienced first hand just how resilient the Manitoba startup community and, more specifically, our Fab Lab members are.
The Fab Lab Safety Committee is closely watching proceedings day-by-day and is continuing with strategic planning for what may happen in the near future and long term. In the meantime, we remain open for startups to continue operating, for new businesses to be created and for new prototypes to be developed.