Research project trains apparel workers on safe manufacturing

A joint research project by Goodwill Industries and Fanshawe College’s Centre for Research and Innovation has pivoted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to produce high-quality face masks made in London.

 

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Workers manufacture "The Worker" face masks through a joint research project by Goodwill Industries and Fanshawe College’s Centre for Research and Innovation

 

The masks are developed and produced through the Fanshawe/Goodwill research project collaboration named “The Worker,” which is training apparel workers to innovate in response to COVID-19 with personal protective equipment, safe manufacturing environments and remote work.

 

“Two major factors that make ‘The Worker’ masks effective are the material they’re made from and the way they fit closely to the face,” says Jennifer Wright, a research professor at Fanshawe College’s Faculty of Creative Industries who is co-leading the project with professor Meredith Jones. “The mask is stitched from high thread count quilter’s cotton and has been developed to fit closely to the face while covering the mouth and nose area generously. In addition, the elastic wraps around the head (instead of the ears), allowing for adjustability and maximum comfort.”

 

The Fanshawe/Goodwill research partnership is the result of a $65,000 grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council’s “Applied Research Rapid Response to COVID-19.” Through the program, Goodwill is employing 12 people in-house and 13 remote workers – including newcomers who were trained through the apparel skills program, and 12 of whom are students at Fanshawe College who have been able to use the employment for their co-op education. Plans are underway to add a second shift of workers.

 

Initially, work had been planned by the team on a research project to build an apparel skills training program to support newcomers and those with barriers to employment while diverting end-of-use textiles from landfill. The program rapidly shifted in response to COVID-19 by instead manufacturing face masks for the public from locally-supplied new materials, a way to help ensure supplies were not taken from front-line workers.

 

“The Worker” face masks are sold in Goodwill stores and have been purchased by companies and non-profits including Shoppers Drug Mart, The Beer Store, Fanshawe College Retail Services, Western University Retail Services, University of Guelph, LUSO, Habitat for Humanity and London Public Library for the protection of their employees. Additionally, the Middlesex-London Health Unit is distributing 3,000 of the program’s face masks to London Transit riders as part of the “Riding Safely Together” program.

 

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Workers being trained in safe apparel manufacturing processes in response to COVID-19 manufacture "The Worker" face masks as part of a joint research project by Goodwill Industries and Fanshawe College’s Centre for Research and Innovation

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