Scottish university produces visors to protect health workers on the frontline

A university has joined in the national effort to protect NHS staff and volunteers working to fight the coronavirus.

By Katharine Hay
Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 4:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 4:52 pm

A university has joined in the national effort to protect NHS staff and volunteers working to fight the coronavirus.

Edinburgh Napier has started producing specially-designed visors to give health workers the protection they need when working with COVID-19 patients.

Workshop technician Colin Malcolm began making the face shields using a laser cutter at the Merchiston campus just hours after hearing about nurses trying to make their own from cotton before going on shift.

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The masks are made of strips of polypropylene sheet plastic fastened to a clear acetate visor to make sure the entire face is protected.

They are now being delivered to nurses and care workers on the frontline to make sure they are protected before potentially being exposed to the virus.

The university’s fast production line began after Napier lecturer Ruth Cochrane heard her relative, who works as a community nurse in Ayrshire, had been trying to make her own surgical mask from fabric.

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Workshop technician Colin Malcolm began churning out the face shields using a laser cutter at the Merchiston campus just hours after hearing about nurses trying to make their own from cotton before going on shift.

Ruth also saw a social media post about design technology staff at Edinburgh Academy manufacturing face shields to donate to the NHS.

The design expert began discussions with Colin about how the pair could produce a protective mask using Napier’s workshop equipment.

Two large sheets of plastic, a laser cutter and a rivet gun were enough to inspire Colin’s own version of the design.

After getting the go-ahead from university managers to be on the premises during the lockdown period, Colin made 20 of the protective masks during an initial session on Monday and hopes to make more than 100 by the weekend.

Ruth said: “The design is rudimentary and the masks are reasonably disposable but they will work as a stop-gap measure until official supply lines get going and I don’t think there will be a shortage of people to deliver them to.

“I have given a batch to a community nursing team, and the efforts of Edinburgh Academy have led to requests from nurses, care homes and hospices.

“We are in a situation where nurses are trying to make surgical masks in their own home, so we can certainly use our skills to create a better solution. Even if it only made one nurse safer at work for one day then it would have been worth having a go.”

Colin added: “At a time of national crisis, many people are going the extra mile to make life a little bit more comfortable for others, so we are pleased to be able to use our skills and resources to bring a measure of protection to those who are working so hard in healthcare settings.”