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Coronavirus shutdown doesn’t close Springfield Smith & Wesson plant; gunmaker donates eye protection to hospital

Smith & Wesson corporate headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2006. MUST CREDIT: J.B. Reed/Bloomberg ORG XMIT: 547173347 Staff-Shot/TNS

Saying it is “critical infrastructure for the United States and the Commonwealth,” gunmaker Smith & Wesson is keeping its manufacturing plants, including the Springfield factory, operational during Gov. Charlie Baker’s order closing “nonessential” businesses across the state.

“We provide firearms, restraints, parts, training, maintenance, and services to law enforcement agencies and the businesses that serve them throughout our great country,” Elizabeth A. Sharp, vice president of investor relations for parent company American Outdoor Brands Corp., said in a statement.

Smith & Wesson is also identifying resources it can offer to state and local governments, including an offsite employee medical clinic, food preparation facilities, a forge and the largest collection of computer numerical control (CNC) machines in Western Massachusetts.

Smith & Wesson has donated 10,000 pair of protective eyewear to Baystate Health, Sharp said, and is coordinating with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno to donate personal protective equipment like face masks to local first responders, hospital staff and public works employees.

Baker on Monday issued his most stringent order so far during the coronavirus pandemic, closing nonessential businesses and advising people to stay home. On Wednesday he extended the closure of schools until May 4.

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The business shutdown order makes exceptions for manufacturers of food, of medical equipment and cleaning supplies, as well as those making equipment and supplies for the military.

The list of exceptions makes no specific exception for general police equipment, but does give exceptions for communications and for those who support the training and education of public safety employees. In its most recent annual report, American Outdoor Brands lists the military as a customer.

The company has three gun factories: the 575,000-square-foot facility in Springfield, a 150,000-square-foot facility in Deep River, Connecticut, and and a 38,000-square-foot facility in Houlton, Maine.

According to its most recent annual report, American Outdoor Brands conducts its handgun and long gun manufacturing and some of its manufacturing service activities in Springfield.

The Connecticut factory is used for custom plastic injection molding, rapid prototyping and tooling. The Maine facility is a machining center only, with no assembly, finishing or small parts operations. It also produces handcuffs and other restraint devices there.

Maine and Connecticut have also mandated that nonessential businesses close.

American Outdoor Brands has about 1,988 employees, including eight part-time employees. Of these employees, 1,484 were engaged in manufacturing, 141 in sales and marketing, 50 in finance and accounting, 74 in research and development, 46 in information services, and 193 in various executive or other administrative functions. The bulk of them are in Springfield.

Sharp wrote that American Outdoor Brands and its Smith & Wesson division have aggressively instituted numerous precautionary health and safety measures for workers, including flexible work schedules, remote work for those employees who can work at home and a 20% pay increase for those who cannot, staggered shifts, enhanced paid leave, and “continuous and comprehensive deep cleaning and disinfecting” of manufacturing facilities and offices.

“We have provided employees with recommendations from the CDC regarding hygiene and other measures that each of us can take to protect our health and the health of our families, and we continue to operate our company-sponsored medical clinic and telemedicine resources for the benefit of our employees and their families,” Sharp wrote.

The company said it is taking the following steps to prevent the virus’ spread:

Broad-spectrum foggers are used to disinfect machines and surfaces on the manufacturing floor, in all common areas and in other areas as needed.

Cleaning activities have been increased using anti-microbial agents.

Social distancing is in place to the greatest extent possible in all workspaces, break rooms and common areas.

Hand sanitizer stations are being monitored and filled more frequently.

Sanitizing wipes have been installed in all common areas.

New security protocols limit crowds and eliminate unnecessary handling of containers and bags.

Arrivals, departures, break times and lunch periods have been staggered; seating in common areas is limited.

The gym, food service and cafeterias have been closed, internal doors have been opened, and other steps have been taken to limit crowding, improve social distancing and reduce the risk of transmitting illness.

In upstate New York, gunmaker Remington Arms offered its plant as manufacturing space to build much needed hospital supplies, according to a report this week in the Ithaca Journal. The plant was closed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for all nonessential workers to stay home.

“The Remington plant in Ilion now has approximately one million square feet of unused and available manufacturing space,” said CEO Ken D’Arcy in a March 23 letter to Cuomo and President Donald Trump, according to the Journal. “We would be honored to donate our facility to the production of ventilators, surgical masks, hospital beds or any other products mission-critical to the war on coronavirus.”

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