JBDC working with MSME to ensure safety of locally produced masks

Colin Porter

The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) is said to be working with its micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) clients to produce face masks using international health and safety specifications.

This is according to Colin Porter, technical services manager at the JBDC, who said that his organization has been using the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended specifications to guide MSMEs in the production of fabric masks. The Health Ministry is also said to be involved in guiding the process.

“Fabric masks don’t offer the same level of protection, such as the surgical masks and the N95 masks, but through organisations such as the WHO and the CDC, they are recommending more and more that people use fabric masks to provide some basic level of protection,” he says.

Samples of masks produced by local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

The recommended specifications for the production of face masks are 100 per cent cotton fabric, a non-porous breathable material or filter to be placed between fabrics, and elastic or cloth strings to secure the face mask.

“We have been sharing this information with our clients in terms of the best types of fabric to use, the most effective design and recommendations on how to tweak these designs to make these masks work as effectively as possible,” Porter explained.

Several MSMEs have answered the Government’s call to provide innovative solutions in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) by producing protective face masks. Concerns have also been raised about the standards of the locally made face masks.

“The dimensions are standard for adults. We don’t have the specifications for children but some persons have adapted the sizes to fit children. We look at different types of material that meet the hygiene and health requirements and allow for the masks to be properly washed and laundered. Those are some of the things we have been working on with them,” he says.

He further notes that the JBDC had commenced making prototypes of masks to assist the corporation’s clients in the production of masks. “There are about 10 clients we are working with. Some have employees. These are persons who, for example, work in the fashion industry, but may have seen a dramatic downturn in sales of orders for garments, so they have now directed their teams to producing masks,” he explains.