Sponsored by Briarwood Products
By Corrections1 BrandFocus Staff
There are too many reports of violence behind bars, often perpetrated using improvised weapons fashioned from ordinary items that are necessary for day-to-day maintenance, such as mops or brooms.
To help promote safety, Briarwood Products, an Ohio-based manufacturer of janitorial products, developed a flexible but tough polymer to provide these needed supplies in a form that cannot be sharpened into a weapon.
“We developed a plastic handle that is extruded into a strong flexible material, enabling the handle to bend easily without breaking,” said Manfred Tomm, the company’s vice president. “We use a strong adhesive to bond the grips and tips to the handle so they cannot be taken off or altered. There’s no metal whatsoever, no riveting, so it’s a very strong and durable product.”
Tomm oversees testing of the company’s shank-free cleaning tools, pulling samples during every production run for constant quality assurance. Here, he gives Corrections1 an inside look at the different kinds of “torture tests” Briarwood Products performs on its correctional cleaning tools:
TWISTING AND BENDING
Broken wood, fiberglass and hard plastic handles can become deadly weapons. Tomm and his team start with twisting and bending the flexible handles of their brooms, mops and other tools to make sure they don’t splinter or break. They thread the handle into a broom and then twist and bend it 45 degrees or more in multiple directions.
“The membrane of the plastic material is very strong and durable, so it holds its form and its shape during this process,” said Tomm. “We’ll go up to the max as far as we can, but usually it’s a good bend that just flexes right back without breaking, so it’s a good strong product that can stand up to physical abuse.”
SCRATCHING AND GRINDING
They also scratch and scrape each sample to make sure that the tool can’t be altered to have any sharp edges that would turn it into a shank. This means basically trying to peel off layers or sections.
“The plastic is a soft but flexible material, so you can’t really break it off and turn it into a weapon,” said Tomm, “so for the scratch test, we take a knife and try to break it into slivers to ensure the plastic material is soft enough so that it won’t scratch off but is still durable.”
They also test the products by grinding them against concrete, another common method of sharpening for weaponization, to ensure no sharp edges.
Pulling is another key test to demonstrate the durability of broom bristles and mop heads. Again, these are constructed without using metal for added safety.
“The bristles are fused into the broom block, and we put it into a machine and pull the bristles until they get pulled out,” said Tomm. “We take them all the way until they break. It takes, for instance, 35 to 45 pounds of pressure.”
Briarwood also offers a non-woven mop that rips apart so the fibers can’t be tied together to make a rope.
Briarwood Products makes a point of soliciting customer feedback and makes improvements based on that information. They also provide “try before you buy” kits so corrections administrators can see for themselves what kind of abuse the products can take.
“We always send samples out to the prisons so that they can test them for themselves,” said Tomm. “It’s very important that they look at the products and they use the products themselves.”
The family-owned company takes pride in being small enough to respond quickly to customer needs and suggestions.
“As soon as we hear something – maybe if something broke and it shouldn’t – then we can go back to our quality control and find out exactly what happened and why it happened,” he said.
All the products are manufactured in the USA, including their latest addition, a shank-free toilet bowl brush. The cutting edge of technology is the only edge they are interested in providing, says Tomm.
“Our company is dedicated to protecting the corrections staff and the inmates from harm,” he said. “Our focus is safety and being innovative on the leading edge of this industry.”
For more information, visit Briarwood Products.