KENOVA, W.Va. — While some employees in the Tri-State area have made arrangements to work from home during the novel coronavirus pandemic, a group of employees at Braskem America’s Neal, West Virginia, production plant have done the exact opposite — brought home to work.
More than 40 employees are participating in a “live-in” at the production facility in Neal, located a few miles south of Kenova, playing a critical role in the fight against COVID-19.
“The need for essential medical supplies to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is at an all-time high — Braskem has a dedicated Resiliency Response Team of 42 employees who have been living 24/7 on the premises of its Neal polypropylene (PP) production plant since March 31,” said Gerard McGuigan, Braskem America public relations associate.
The team rotates on 12-hour shifts to meet raw material needs of medical manufacturing customers for the production of respiratory masks as well as protective medical equipment. When they aren’t working, the employees remain at the factory.
Those 42 employees volunteered to live at the facility, beginning March 31, and will remain there until April 28, McGuigan said, creating a four-week period of isolation for the group to ensure that each member stays healthy and could remain working.
Produced at Neal, homopolymers for nonwovens are used to make N95 face masks and medical gowns as well as thermoforming grades for food packaging. These items are critical tools for front-line health care workers.
The company supported the employees’ efforts by providing increased wages and all the onsite necessities for its volunteers including beds, fully functioning kitchens, a constant supply of groceries, iPads, high-speed internet access and the option to leave the plant if necessary for health and wellness or family emergencies.
Braskem also has been working with the Huntington City Mission to arrange for meal donations — the live-in team has worked out an arrangement to have the mission collect meals that are not needed at the plant.
In Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, Braskem America employees carried out the same operation at a second facility — a live-in manufacturing team to ensure the supply can satisfy the demand of medical supplies.
Braskem’s Neal production facility sits on a 100-acre site along the Big Sandy River and produces more than 500 million pounds of polypropylene homopolymers per year, directly employing over 100 people.
The plant — originally founded in 1961 and under the ownership of five companies since then — was most recently owned by Sunoco until 2010, when Braskem purchased Sunoco’s polymer operations throughout the United States.