A specialist manufacturer has explained how it is balancing the safety of its employees at the same time as carrying out critical work in the fight against coronavirus.

James Walker continues to operate at its Cockermouth site as part of the critical supply chain for industries around the globe.

Its work includes the design and manufacture of components for ventilators and oxygen equipment.

The firm is making critical o rings for use in oxygen regulators, managing to reduce the lead time for production from the usual 20 days down to just five.

It is also making diaphragms for ultimate use in ventilator systems to help people with coronavirus.

James Walker said it had been able to quote for producing 8,500 of the diaphragms within just 10 hours of receiving the request, with an emergency lead time of 10 days.

It has also responded to an urgent demand for o rings for use by a customer in the nuclear industry which needed the parts following an unscheduled break in operations.

James Walker has taken up the challenge of producing the components in just two weeks.

James Walker site director Ed Surman said the vast majority of work currently going through the Cockermouth factory is destined for critical industries in applications such as pharmaceutical production and medical devices, food and drink manufacture and power generation.

He said: “James Walker’s well-developed incident management and business continuity plans have allowed us to facilitate many personnel to work from home and assist staff who are in high risk categories, or in households forced to self-isolate.

"Overall, thanks to the efforts of our staff, our production cells are operating at close to normal levels despite the implementation of all necessary protection measures for those still working on site.

"James Walker has adjusted shift patterns from a five-day operation to a seven-day operation, reducing the number of people on site at any one time.”

It was observing strict social distancing rules and giving people more flexibility to deal with childcare issues as schools have closed, he said.