Ethos Connect: Early Planning Kept Benchmark FR Producing Products for Essential Workers

Benchmark FR is an 18-year-old manufacturer of arc and flame resistant clothing in Orange County, CA. The company develops and manufactures apparel and accessories that protect electrical lineman, oilfield and refinery workers, welders, and miners. As with most industries, the Coronavirus changed how the company had to operate. 

“We were lucky that we were taking proactive steps at our company ahead of the California Stay Home order that allowed us to continue working and supplying our customers,” said John O’Sullivan Co-Owner, Benchmark FR. He continued, “many of the companies we serve are classified as essential business, and we needed to ensure we had the raw materials and the employees available to fill orders to ensure the essential workers had the protective clothing to do their jobs.”

Benchmark FR makes shirts, pants, and outerwear for specialized industries, but it was the Face Muffler that soon became the most popular product as the demand for PPE and face masks increased.

According to O’Sullivan, the company was receiving orders from people who were one step removed from the first responders. With all available masks going to first responders, Benchmark was contacted by companies that were trying to find protection for employees. “We received orders from different industries that were looking to provide a layer of protection for their employees. We even had orders for face mufflers come from ambulance drivers,” said O’Sullivan. He went on to say that while “the face mufflers aren’t a substitute for N95 masks, people are grateful to have them.” 

O’Sullivan had the foresight to order additional raw material to keep his production line going. He was looking at how to continue working as the signs pointed toward a potential lockdown in the state. Benchmark FR has approximately 23 employees, and he knew the company had to implement new procedures to keep everyone safe. “We changed our shift hours so that the morning and evening shift employees in the factory would not overlap and to allow additional time for cleaning before and after each shift. Also, we worked with our employees as much as possible to accommodate changes in shift hours for parents who suddenly had young children at home,” said O’Sullivan.

The company conducted a visual training for all employees to ensure everyone understood how quickly Coronavirus spreads.

According to O’Sullivan, the company celebrates birthdays by providing lunch for the employees. In early March, after returning from a meeting and walking into the lunchroom, he realized that they could no longer have shared food for the team. “At that moment, I knew we needed not only to tell our team but also demonstrate how quickly the Coronavirus germs could spread if you touch a shared serving spoon and then ate your taco without washing your hands in between. This was the early days before all the ads were coming out on washing your hands. We knew we had to take action and make the training bulletproof so that everyone at our company understood that all the measures we were implementing were to keep employees safe”.

In addition to tossing out any snack foods, the company implemented socially spaced seating in the lunchroom, provided cleaning supplies for everyone, and has someone clean hard surfaces every hour. The doors are left open, and we asked people not to turn off the lights. 

O’Sullivan credits the team at Benchmark FR for rapidly implementing all the above changes that have allowed the company to provide the face mufflers not only to their traditional customers but to companies that were unable to secure masks for their employees.

New Products for a New Era

In the past few weeks, Benchmark FR added a “Ninja style” face mask that is light and flame resistant, giving an additional option to clients who are required to wear a flame-resistant face mask all day.
“We have received so many notes and shout-outs on social medial from companies and consumers thanking us for these products that it has been gratifying for our team,” O’Sullivan concluded.

If you are interested in the face masks or other specialty clothing designed by Benchmark FR visit: