Labmask image with all NHS heroes faces and volunteers

The Labmask Project

Katie Simpson Uncategorized

The Labmask project was set up at the end of March 2020 with the huge goal of supplying 80,000 masks to frontline NHS workers, to help protect them at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Labmasks are clear visors designed to prevent fluid from reaching the face whilst being simple enough to reproduce quickly from easy to source materials.

NHS Staff wearing Labmasks

When the virus finally spread to the UK and we entered a national lockdown, a handful of Labman staff came up with the idea for Labmask after searching for ways in which we could really make a difference at a time when there was a massive shortage of PPE. The factory at Labman HQ is currently in the final stages of a huge extension so we had a secure, open work-space available which we decided to donate for production of the masks, for as long as the project needed it. The initiative had one message: ‘This visor is not for profit, it’s for people“.

The team started small, but as the word spread we were inundated with offers of help from the local community and further afield – a humbling reminder of the great spirit and resolve of the British people.

The demand for the masks was massive, but operating a strict rota and shift pattern to mitigate mixing of groups meant that at their peak, the team were averaging almost 7,000 masks produced per day. The simple but potentially life saving masks were wrapped, packed and delivered by more kind volunteers direct to hospitals and surgeries each day. Before they knew it, the team were celebrating reaching the milestone of 100,000 masks produced, only three weeks into the project.

Volunteers were reminded each day about the worth of their work, from the influx of thank-you messages and photos sent from hospital staff wearing Labmasks, which were all put up on a ‘Wall of Heroes’ in the Labmask production area. We know that Labmasks were delivered to at least 50 locations across the North, and likely forwarded to many more.

Part of the work for the Labmask project also involved the supply of materials and manufacturing jigs to a Midlands based manufacturing company – AV Birch who began their own production line of the visor, enabling more NHS workers across the UK to benefit from it’s design, re-born as the AVisor.

On 18th May the team packed up their final mask; mask 252,220 – the result of an absolutely heroic effort from a team of fantastic volunteers. Here is an insight into the efforts behind this brilliant project:

252,220 Labmasks produced in total

37 days worked in total

9.813 tonnes of plastic used

138.85 kms of elastic used

6871 average masks produced per day

161 volunteers kindly helped out

2301 biscuits eaten

9240 metres of tape used

8288 total volunteered hours

1195 cans of glue used

47.25 m3 of foam used

243 Fleetwood Mac songs listened to

Deryck Simpson Labmask painting
Credit: Deryck Simpson
‘Portraits for NHS Heroes’ – Bridge Centre for Visual Arts, Darlington.

While production has been shut down for now the Labmask project is not completely put to bed. Re-opening will be considered should there be a second resurgence of the COVID-19 disease. Thank you to all the dedicated volunteers, thank you to the NHS workers, and thank you Labmask.