Turning swords into ploughshares could be ascribed to what Armscor defence institute Protechnik Laboratories did when the coronavirus pandemic hit South Africa.
The Centurion based operation is, according to Armscor, one of a group of Defence Science and Technology Institutes (DSTI’s) within Armscor Defence Institutes. It conducts project work in the fields of chemical and biological defence on behalf of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). It also provides technical support under contract to the SA Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction on technical aspects related to implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
An area of specialisation is protection of personnel in chemically hazardous environments, making much sense when COVID-19 and the myriad of regulations to prevent its spread hit South Africa in March, and a decision to produce hand sanitisers and surface disinfects – a first.
The decision, according to only the second Armscor newsletter of 2020, came in the wake of a surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE). In turn this saw shortages of what the newsletter calls “these materials”.
“Protechnik took an initiative to use the scientific expertise at their disposal to develop, test, evaluate and produce hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants (sic),”the newsletter reports.
Both products were initially available for use at Armscor facilities and government entities.
“Some hand sanitiser was donated to public schools in disadvantaged communities across the country as a way to encourage good hygiene and prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” according to the newsletter.
The hand sanitiser was designed with strict adherence to World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations. It is a blend of Ethanol/Isopropanol (95IPA- 75%), water, hydrogen peroxide, glycerine and a detergent for mild cleansing.
Work is underway for product certification by the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS). Protechnik also plans for accreditation of the mixing plant in terms of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to sell its hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants to non-government entities and the public.
Protechnik was also part of testing, evaluation and national certification of imported and locally made respiratory PPE including face masks.