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OPG’s ‘Solutions Team’ finding innovative ways to fight COVID-19

OPG has launched a “Solutions Team” to continue to find new ways to protect its essential employees working to keep Ontario’s lights on during the COVID-19 pandemic and further support frontline health care workers.

Thermal imaging cameras have been introduced to OPG's stations to safeguard workers' health.
Thermal imaging cameras have been introduced to OPG's stations to safeguard workers' health.

The team is now busy collecting, evaluating and working to quickly implement creative and innovative ideas from across the company. Since the onset of the pandemic, employee-driven ideas have led OPG to hand-sew cloth masks for the community, 3D-print protective face shields for frontline workers, repurpose thermography cameras to monitor temperatures of plant staff, and prototype a product to help employees maintain social distancing practices while on site.

“We have a lot of talent at OPG, and anyone we can think of under the sun works here, from nurses to supply chain managers to software programmers – not to mention a lot of hidden talent that we are leveraging,” said Kasia Izdebska, OPG’s Innovation Manager for Nuclear, who is now leading five other employees as part of the Solutions Team.

Currently, the team is focused on three major projects.

The first is finalizing the design of the thermal imaging cameras now deployed across OPG’s operations, which are helping to detect employees with high temperatures before they enter work areas. The current cameras have been requisitioned from work programs at the stations, so the team is looking to order cameras for the dedicated purpose of safeguarding plant workers.

The second priority is sterilization. Rather than relying solely on hand sanitizers and traditional disinfectants, the Solutions Team is studying the possibility of utilizing industrial handheld ultraviolet-C sterilizers to clean surfaces and incoming shipments. The powerful UV-C light rays are capable of inactivating microorganisms by disrupting their DNA.

Using versatile 3D printers, OPG’s X-Lab innovation hub is producing parts to help build protective face shields for Ontario's healthcare workers.
Using versatile 3D printers, OPG’s X-Lab innovation hub is producing parts to help build protective face shields for Ontario's health care workers.

“OPG receives many shipments on a daily basis, and we don’t know how they have been handled before arriving on our sites, so we are studying the use of UV-C to sterilize incoming packages to make handling as safe as possible for our workers,” said Izdebska.

The team is collaborating with Duke Energy, the Electric Power Research Institute, and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to identify the impact of UV-C sterilization on various materials and surfaces.

Thirdly, the team is tapping into sewing talent across OPG to sew washable and reusable cloth masks to protect OPG’s employees as well as frontline health care workers. After a company-wide call was made for sewing volunteers, the team received an overwhelming response from employees interested in participating in the initiative. Should the need arise to protect all of OPG’s workers with a mask, cloth masks could be a potential solution if there is no other option.

Recently, OPG received positive feedback from Cobourg’s Northumberland Hills Hospital on the comfort and durability of its cloth masks. The hospital has since donated enough medical-grade H600 fabric for OPG to make more than 9,000 masks.

In addition to these three priorities, the team is looking at developing products aimed to help employees maintain physical distancing measures at work sites. The team also continues to support the production of 3D-printed face shields for frontline health care workers and OPG employees.

As is the case for most industries and businesses right now, the main challenge facing the Solutions Team is a global shortage of supplies and materials. Despite these challenges, Izdebska expects to see most of her team’s top projects to be implemented throughout OPG’s operations in a matter of months.

“We’re working extremely hard on these initiatives and scaling innovation faster than I have ever seen before,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of help from everyone across the company through their ideas and unique skillsets, and it is incredible to see how much we can achieve together when everyone is focused on a common goal.”