Honeywell is laying off approximately 470 employees on its Smithfield, R.I.-based N95 respirator mask production line.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Honeywell expanded operations at the Smithfield eye protection products plant so that the facility could also manufacture millions of N95 masks at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
The company said at the time that it had plans to immediately start the hiring process to bring on at least 500 new workers to support the efforts, which was slated to deliver masks to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to boost the national stockpile.
A Honeywell spokesperson confirmed that the layoffs pertained only to employees on the N95 production line and nowhere else in the facility. The affected employees received notice of the layoffs throughout the day on Wednesday. The spokesperson told Medical Design & Outsourcing that the company maintains its more efficient, automated production lines in the Phoenix area.
The spokesperson said that the laid-off Rhode Island employees will be encouraged to apply for other roles within Honeywell, while those who are eligible will be offered severance.
“At the start of the pandemic, when U.S. healthcare systems were faced with unprecedented demand for N95 respirators, Honeywell rapidly invested in establishing N95 respirator production at multiple facilities. To keep up with the sustained demand resulting from the prolonged pandemic, we invested in even more efficient, automated production lines,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We are now seeing a dramatic reduction in demand for N95s in the U.S. as many states are ending or scaling back mask mandates and vaccinations are being widely distributed. For these reasons, Honeywell is adjusting its N95 operations and ceasing manual production of N95s at our facility in Smithfield, R.I.
“We appreciate the hard work and dedication these employees displayed in helping to protect American frontline workers battling the pandemic. The U.S. remains Honeywell’s largest N95 manufacturing operation, and we will continue to deliver PPE to help protect workers on the job.”