In response to the CDC’s recommendation to wear masks while performing essential services in the community during the pandemic, a group of United Power employees (Operations Manager Brent Sydow; Safety Specialist Mike Robinson; Purchasing Director Curtis Subia; and Operations Superintendent Kurt Eisenbarth) had an innovative idea: repurposing fire-retardant work shirts into masks.
The Brighton-based electric cooperative had an extra supply of bright yellow FR (flame resistant) shirts on hand and gave those to a local seamstress to design and make the masks. The masks were provided to all United Power essential crews.
These special masks are important since lineworkers dress for the job and their clothing is designed to protect them in case of an electrical contact. These essential workers cannot simply use an off-the-shelf face mask and stay safe on the job. The FR face masks maintain that protection for these crews.
The cooperative is also providing the rest of its employees with non-FR masks repurposed from United Power T-shirts it had in stock. These will be used when the social distancing restrictions have been lifted and their staff is back in the office. Currently, the co-op is utilizing teleworking protocols and many of their 175 employees are working from home when it is feasible.