Saskatchewan

Sneeze guards have become big business for Sask. company due to COVID-19

Davey Plastics is making sneeze guards for businesses to help keep people safe from COVID-19.

Regina plastics company running day and night to keep up with demand

One of Lonnie Maier's installers loading up his vehicle to deliver more shields. (Fiona Odlum, CBC)

A Regina plastics company is running day and night to keep up with demand driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lonnie Maier has owned Davey Plastics Inc. in Regina for 25 years.

His business specializes in plastic fabrication, making display cases, brochure holders and bulk food bins. Over the years he's made several sneeze guards, mostly for sandwich shops or restaurants with buffets.

Now those sneeze guards are his primary business, and business is good. 

Maier said he had been making plans to lay-off half his staff due to the slow-down that came with COVID-19. Then came his first order for a sneeze guard. That call changed everything.

From that moment on his business has been going full tilt making thousands of protective shields. It's not just restaurants that want these shields: businesses like Redhead Equipment in Saskatoon and Warner Industries are looking to keep their staff safe.

Maier employs 10 full-time staff, four part-time employees and several contract staff acting as installers. They have been working in shifts to cover all of the orders for the past four weeks, but starting this week they will have people working 24/7.

"I am really happy none of my guys had to go on unemployment," Maier said.

The shields are made from a thick, lightweight plastic, making them portable and easy to install. 

Lonnie Maier, owner of Davey Plastics Inc. says his shop has been running non-stop making sneeze guards. (Fiona Odlum, CBC)

Maier has been working on a prototype for a new shield which would be easier and faster to make. He said the new design will help double production to approximately 60 shields a day. 

The goal is to keep up with demand while they still have supply, Maier had a shipment of plastic arrive at his shop just as the pandemic hit, but now some of his supplies are running low.

"The U.S is holding back some supplies but for the most part we are getting about 90 per cent of what we need," he said.

He also wants to start producing a lightweight face shield for doctors and front-line staff to wear, but the plastic to make those is on a 22-week back order from the United States.

Plastic prices have also gone up due the American dollar dropping and because of the limited supply. Most of his plastics come from Mexico, the U.S. and Japan-via-Vancouver. 

Maier says the long hours are exhausting, but it's the stress of the unknown that has him feeling rattled. He said he sometimes gets an "eerie feeling" when they go in to a store to do an install, and his mind wanders to "what if this is the day I get it." 

He said he is combating that feeling by taking extra precautions, both in his shop and out on installation calls. 

Maier said he feels a real sense of pride coming to work every day. 

"I feel good about helping my country and my city," he said.

About the Author

Fiona Odlum

CBC Staffer

Fiona is a contributor at CBC Saskatchewan. She is from Winnipeg, Manitoba and that is where she started her broadcasting career over 15 years ago. Fiona has done everything from traffic reporting in a helicopter, to breaking news, anchoring and hosting talk radio across the country and telling weather stories.

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