Leigh Smart, Director of Formula Chemicals, said the company has been a manufacturer of alcohol-based hand and surface sanitisers for many years. Production has ramped up significantly in direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“These products have just taken off in volume since the pandemic started and we have had to increase staff levels (casuals by six),” said Smart.
“On average our employees are doing anywhere up to 30 hours extra overtime per week to keep up with demand.
“Our products initially were used in the food and dairy industry but we are now finding new areas such as the transport industry are now using alcohol sprays to sanitise cabs and driver work areas between shifts,” he said.
Demand for sanitiser products, according to Smart, has impacted the road transport industry as operators and businesses have stepped up to provide a safe workplace and have initiated new protocols to protect drivers.
“Once a driver changes from one truck to another, the centre console, steering wheel and doors (everything a driver touches) is sprayed with an alcohol-based sanitiser to prevent any cross contamination,” said Smart. “Formula Chemicals provides alcohol-based hand and hard surface sanitisers to NSW Highway Patrol, fire brigade and Sydney Water. We also supply product free of charge to our local schools.”
Smart has been lobbying politicians and government departments with concerns about other businesses’ and individuals’ handling and manufacturing of hand sanitiser products.
In a letter sent to the COVID-19 PPE Taskforce earlier this month, Smart raised concerns about the importation of raw materials and finished products.
"There is no shortage of alcohol in Australia at present for bulk consumers," said Smart. "There is no need to import product from China which is readily made in Australia. If the Prime Minister keeps reiterating that we all have to support locally made product and increase our manufacturing prowess then why bring in imported product?"
The product arriving in Australia from China, according to Smart, are not packed in compliance with Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) i.e. not earthed so consequently when untrained, unprofessional individuals do not use these containers there is a high probability that they will produce static electricity which could lead to disastrous effects.
Formula Chemicals is concerned about product quality control. The importers, Smart said, have provided technical data sheets on anhydrous ethanol (denatured ethanol) however the product is only 99.8 per cent minimum. The product in this instance has not been denatured according to Smart and should be liable for duty/tax with change twice per year.
"I believe this duty should be paid by the importer but can also be paid by the end user," said Smart.
Formula Chemicals has also taken exception to the mainstream media's push to advise on how to make homemade alcohol-based hand sanitisers and wipes.
"At no stage did they [A Current Affair] ever mention these products were dangerous goods and were flammable or peroxide was a strong oxidising agent," said Smart.
"The formulation of mixing two thirds alcohol to one third aloe vera gel is very misleading. What is the final alcohol content in the product, was it 70 per cent? No efficacy test have been done to say this concentration works so the unsuspecting public could think by using this product it would give them a level of protection but in actual fact it does not.
"I liked the finished product being stored in drink containers but then at the end of the program a slight proviso to keep this solution away from children. It would have been more appropriate to say if children drank this solution they could die would be more appropriate. Of course, no labelling instructions on the bottle about flammability or any warning of its dangerous nature.
"I like the idea of soaking a paper hand towel in a hydrogen peroxide solution to make up wipes. Does the peroxide soak uniformly through the roll? I don’t think so. Is the level of peroxide on the paper towel strong enough to provide any sanitising effect; I would not think the inner layers would be saturated enough to work. Has any efficacy tests been done to say this method even works? No. Have they not heard that hydrogen peroxide (Class 5 Oxidising Agent) is classified as a dangerous goods can spontaneously combust in this situation.”
Smart urges the Federal Government, Covid-19 PPE Taskforce and all relevant parties to support local Australian manufacturing, stop the imports from China, keep Australians working in the chemical/cosmetic industry and make Australia great once again.