Although Covid-19 is going to leave an indelible mark on 2020, it has also marked a special event for myself and ARR Rail. News coverage in the early days of the pandemic highlighted the distress on the faces of the frontline medical staff caused by the long working hours in a challenging environment that was being exacerbated by poorly fitting masks. A fortuitous invitation from Innovate UK for novel ideas to strengthen country’s defence against Covid-19 lead to discussions with David Hydes of LWS Rail, a strategic partner of ARR Rail and the idea of a “safe & comfy medical PPE jacket” was born. The team was further strengthened with the support of Universal PPE, already well established in the supply of PPE to the welding industry.
ARR Rail was one of a small number of companies to be selected for a research grant from Innovate UK to develop the proposed PPE. The project started on the 1st of June 2020 and the promised deliverable of 10 prototype units has been successfully surpassed with 16 units having been delivered for independent unbiased assessment by medical staff spread across the country. Early feedback has been so encouraging that the route to market and larger scale manufacture is being progressed rapidly. More importantly, as virtually all currently available PAPR units are imported, a key success of the project has been the re-engineering of PAPR technology to enable UK manufacture of an improved device.
So, on the technical front, the developed PPE has been designed to bring together the two essential attributes of safety and user comfort in a medical jacket that incorporates a head unit comprising a clear visor and a filtered air supply system based on well-proven powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) technology. A gentle stream of fresh and filtered air into the breathing zone of the hood provides the much-needed comfort for the user working under challenging conditions. More importantly, the system also enhances safety by creating a positive pressure within the breathing zone to prevent ingress of contaminated air or droplets. Thus, the developed unit does not require the use of masks which enables better communication between medical staff and patients. The hood and jacket are made from EN 13795 compliant non-woven fabric (supplied by Toray Textiles Europe Ltd) which can be cleaned and disinfected and thereby minimises wastage.
Further description of the system with supporting photographic illustration of the product is provided in the attached product fact sheet and through the attached video link (https://youtu.be/kn-JpczKnno) that also provides details of the suggested donning and doffing procedures.
Although the developed PPE is undergoing assessment by selected medical, dental, and care staff, the project is seeking central product approval by the appropriate authority within the NHS and other relevant organisations.