04/09/2013 - 15:41

Working hand in glove on safety (with video)

04/09/2013 - 15:41

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For Performance On Hand directors Damione and Sharon Wright, the key to forging a successful start-up business has been hard work and perseverance – and a thick skin.

Back in 2005, the husband-and-wife team saw a market opportunity in the provision of task-specific protective gloves for workers exposed to high-risk industrial environments.

Mr Wright was working for an energy utility in New South Wales at the time and had plenty of hands-on experience with regard to on-site safety. Yet while he noticed that employers placed a premium on providing staff with personal protective equipment, workers’ hands were often left unprotected by inadequate safety gloves.

“I would often have the opportunity to go on-site and it just struck me as one of those things that was very odd,” Mr Wright told Business News.

“You’d be issued with your steel-cap boots, your safety eyewear, your hard-hat, but what’s doing all of your work – your hands – were just completely left exposed.”

The pair found that many employers were taking a one-size-fits-all approach to protective gloves, which did not take into account the unique requirements and dangers of their tasks.

“We started with one mining company doing a lot of trials with them because they were using a one-size-fits-all solution and we were hearing all sorts of horror stories of gloves being caught in machinery and causing injury, or people simply not wearing the gloves because they didn’t fit,” Ms Wright said.

“That was our main driver to start with but when we went out into industry, we definitely heard lots of stories and lots of injury reports that pointed directly to the wrong product being used for a task or a job that actually caused injury rather than protecting for injury.”

They launched Performance On Hand, then known as Wrights HardWear, in 2005 and were quick to identify opportunities but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the young company.

“The early days were really tough,” Mr Wright said.

“I’ll never forget the first trade show over in Melbourne that we exhibited at, where the traditional slot-suppliers of personal protective equipment, including gloves, literally pointed their fingers and laughed at us.”

Mr Wright, who was recognised for his entrepreneurial efforts as a Business News 40under40 award winner in 2010, said the key to initial success was hitting the pavement and educating customers on the productivity benefits that could be gained from custom-made gloves.

In recent years, Performance On Hand has achieved high growth and secured a raft of big-name clients, including BHP Billiton, Woodside Petroleum, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Santos.

The company now offers six unique brands of protective gloves and targets a raft of industries, ranging from mining and oil and gas to law enforcement and security.

Performance On Hand has pursued ongoing research and development in partnership with Curtin University but also spends time with end-users, undergoing trials and manipulating the details of a product to find the perfect fit for each customer.

Despite racking up a further 27 per cent year-on-year growth for the 2013 financial year and expanding offshore, the directors of Performance On Hand remain on the hunt for further opportunities. 

Ms Wright said the company had only just begun to scratch the surface in the local market and was keen to make further inroads into areas such as the construction sector, with further research and development vital components in the hunt for new business.

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