Production has started again at a Norfolk factory making vital fire safety equipment for ambulances, hospitals, police, Ministry of Defence and the rail network across the UK.
A skeleton staff of 12 workers have been drafted into to Britannia Fire at Ashwellthorpe after a three-week covid-19 shutdown to meet demand for extinguishers and fire suppression systems from the MOD, NHS, fire and rescue services and Network Rail.
Staff at the UK’s only composite extinguisher manufacturer have been designated as key workers to reopen the manufacturing and dispatch base where extinguishers and fire systems are made, repaired and serviced, and exported all over the world.
To keep workers safe and ensure social distancing, lines have been painted on the factory floor, breaks are being staggered and strict guidelines are being followed.
Sales director Andy Spence said the factory that produces the world’s first composite extinguisher, the P50, had closed its 11-building operation on Ashwellthorpe Industrial Estate following government advice last month and furloughed nearly 40 factory staff.
“Demand from customers, including the MoD, hospitals, fire and rescue services and police force, mean our staff have been designated as key workers and carry letters saying they are.
“Our products, like our composite P50s, are fitted on ambulances, and new ambulances being commissioned during the crisis need to be fitted, and extinguishers refilled and replaced on others.
“We also supply our metal extinguisher range and wheeled units to the MOD and fire suppression units and extinguishers across the UK’s rail network.’
“Production is slower and lead times are longer, but we are delivering what our customers need.”
Mr Spence asked for volunteers from its 40 furloughed staff and had been overwhelmed by offers from workers who wanted “to do their bit.”
Britannia Fire exports its products to the Middle East and across Europe with new markets emerging in Australia.
“We are taking orders from customers, including large orders for our distributor in India, which will be ready for when borders open again.”
Britannia Fire’s P50 extinguisher is also installed across Heathrow Airport, chosen for its sustainability, and in London banks, universities and public buildings across the UK and internationally.
“The rail network is repairing and replenishing its fire safety systems while the trains aren’t running so need our service now.
“We have one employee who works alone repairing, cleaning and replenishing cylinders for fire suppression systems that sit under train engines, so he isn’t mixing with other workers.
“The others will follow guidelines in the factory.”