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North Vancouver company pivots to Plexiglas barrier business as reopening begins

Dr. Bonnie Henry has called physical barriers, such as Plexiglas, “incredibly effective” measures for stopping the spread of COVID-19 in retail spaces.
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Michael Mange of North Vancouver’s Boma Manufacturing pic
Michael Mange of North Vancouver’s Boma Manufacturing cuts a Plexiglas barrier destined for a North Shore business. Physical barriers are effective measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in retail spaces, says health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. photo Paul McGrath, North Shore New

As many sectors across B.C. get set to reopen following the province’s relaxation of some pandemic restrictions, one North Vancouver company has adapted its business to help other businesses phase back in. 

For the past three weeks, Boma Manufacturing, located on East First Street, has started selling and installing Plexiglas barriers for businesses in the retail and service industries.

For more than 50 years, Boma has been in the business of reproducing products, such as West Coast art, for the gifts, souvenirs and galleries markets.

The company was already adept at working with composite materials, recycled glass, pewter, silk, acrylic, and wood, but when owner Michael Mange saw an opportunity to pivot his business to helping others restart their own, he decided working with a new material was in order.

“I had a connection with the acrylic supplier and I phoned them and they said they had 20 sheets left. I said, ‘Send them to me.’ And then I went out and started selling,” said Mange. “I didn’t want to sit on my hands, basically.”

During the past few weeks, as the B.C. government began to announce its plans for gradually reopening sectors of the economy, such as restaurants and hair salons that had previously been closed due to COVID-19, Mange has installed custom Plexiglas barriers at local businesses that include Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers and West Vancouver’s Temper Chocolate.

He’s even installed a barrier at the front desk at Hollyburn House, a long-term care home in West Vancouver where previously two confirmed cases of novel coronavirus were identified.

On Friday, WorkSafeBC released a series of industry-specific guidelines for employers to develop safety plans at their worksites – in industries such as restaurants, retail, parks and outdoor spaces, offices spaces and health services – before reopening.

Although employers do not need to submit their safety plans for review or approval before reopening, WorkSafeBC has stated that where physical distancing can’t be maintained at the worksite, employers should consider separating people with partitions or Plexiglas barriers.

A week ago, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, called physical barriers, such as Plexiglas, “incredibly effective” measures for stopping the spread of COVID-19 in retail spaces.

“Having that Plexiglas barrier protects me from you, and you from me – and those are incredibly effective,” said Henry.

Mange said he anticipates demand for Plexiglas barriers will be high for at least the next month or two as more and more businesses look towards reopening under the provincial guidelines.

“Basically, my 20 original sheets have all been committed. I have 20 more sheets coming in the next week and then another week after that I have another 50, and I have another 100 sheets on order for mid-June,” he said.

While employers are not required to submit their safety plans for review, the province has stated that health authorities and WorkSafeBC prevention officers will launch a provincewide inspection initiative to ensure that employers have plans in place that keep their employees safe.

“It’s satisfying to be able to help people deal with the new reality,” said Mange.

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