In a move to fight the coronavirus pandemic, 46 Braskem America employees are living at the firm's polypropylene resin plant in Marcus Hook, Pa., for 28 days to ensure there is no interruption in production of much-needed material for medical supplies.
PP resin made by Braskem at the Philadelphia-area plant is used in fabric for N95 masks, hospital gowns and hoods, sanitary wipes and similar products. Braskem America CEO Mark Nikolich said that in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, the firm put social distancing and work-from-home initiatives in place while a crisis management team reviewed operations.
But Braskem also wanted to keep its manufacturing employees working at the plant.
The live-in idea was proposed to halt the daily movement of employees to and from the facility, potentially bringing the virus into the plant or taking it back to high-risk family members. During the 28-day period, Braskem is increasing wages while also supplying beds, kitchens, groceries, internet access and iPads. Employees are working 12-hour shifts in two groups around the clock.
Braskem's materials have been declared essential by all states it operates in and by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, so its plants can remain open.
April 5 was Day 14 of the Marcus Hook live-in. On that date, friends and relatives of workers showed their support by driving by and blaring horns, waving signs and shouting encouragement. Only a limited number of specialists have been granted access to the plant.
"In my view, this is less about our industry and more about how teams and communities come together in a crisis," Nikolich said in an email.
Philadelphia-based Braskem America is a unit of Braskem SA of São Paulo, Brazil, which is one of the largest polyolefins makers in the Americas.