Chris Ellerby,Scott Safety's Product Manager for PPE,talks about sensory protection products
23 January 2013
How long have you been working in the health and safety industry? I came to Scott Safety in 2002 from the professional audio industry and whilst it was an entirely new product set for me, there were many similarities in
What major changes have you seen in the design or manufacture of PPE equipment? Customers have definitely become more demanding in their requirements and particularly in the way products look and feel.
PPE is now more aligned with fashion in some respects, people want to be protected, uninhibited in their work, but they also want to look good whilst they do it. Comfort and look are key considerations when it comes to product design and advances in material technology in other industries may benefit the safety industry in the future.
What do the users of PPE tell you they want? Most users would prefer not to wear PPE, but recognise they have to comply from an employee liability perspective and also for their own health. The challenge really is to protect users without inhibiting the job they have to do. People always talk about reduced weight, increased comfort, and increased breathability, but there is no doubt PPE is following workwear and people demand to look good. Quite often a product that is better technically in terms of protection or comfort can lose out on a tender to something that looks better. At Scott Safety we strike a balance of all the important factors, comfort, protection and aesthetics.
How has Scott Safety helped to improve wearer acceptance in the design of its own products? Scott Safety adopts a six sigma design philosophy, which is basically about designing products to the requested market specification in a reduced time to market, right first time so to speak. We spend a lot of time talking to customers about their detailed requirements. Understanding the environment they work in is crucial, how hot, how cold, what the workers are actually doing step by step, so we are able to design products that keep them protected but do not inhibit them performing their job. I think this is the key, understanding and partnering with end users and it's worked very well for us, particularly on new products like First Base 3 our new baseball bump cap range.
What new products can we expect from Scott Safety in 2012? We have a number of new products in the pipeline for 2012 and the first one that I can reveal will be the refresh of our Zone hearing range, we have given it a stylish new look, retained the ease of selection with the Zone Yellow, Orange, Red escalating colour scheme and extended the range to include products which are specifically aimed at Forestry and Amenity applications as well as High Visibility ear defenders. We will also continue the introduction of new First Base 3 variants in our bump cap range.
Are there particular challenges in meeting customer budgets at the moment? There are many headwinds with raw materials, plastics, metals, rubbers, cotton and emerging markets labour force rates all increasing. At the same time our distribution partners may receive fewer orders from end users as everyone tries to cut cost; so yes its challenging at a time where people want to pay less, our costs have gone up significantly. The challenge we face and must overcome is to design out waste in our products and produce things in a highly efficient manner, without compromising quality, which is fundamental to the Scott Safety ethos.
How do you keep your customers up to date with changes to your products? At Scott Safety we have made real improvements in the way we communicate with our customers whether that is through a product bulletin, launch kit, email newsletter or our new multilingual website. Our salesforce and product managers are speaking to customers every day, maintaining relationships and making sure they are kept up to date with new products and services.
Do customers selecting hearing protection, for example, understand the regulations that were revised in 2006? I think the understanding of hearing protection and the need to wear it has really improved. Most safety managers are aware of the action levels under the directives. The challenge really is to get that message across to smaller enterprises. Having recently had a house extension I noticed lots of trades people that did not wear hearing protection, self employed people mostly. So education is a crucial role to play and Scott Safety will be making more training and guidance presentations and videos available free to view on our website.
Do you think there are any further innovations that can be made to PPE products? Yes absolutely the challenge is always to increase comfort, improve the styling and introduce technology that makes a difference.
Smart innovation that is what we strive for at Scott Safety.