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SAFETY FIRST: Damione Wright says an investment in work gloves is like an insurance policy. Photo: Grant Currall

Wrights taking a grip on work safety

PERSONAL protective equipment, or PPE, has become an increasingly important safety control measure for workers exposed to risk.

From safety glasses to steel-cap work boots, welding gloves or hard-hats, PPE has become integral to businesses across a range of industries.

Four years ago, Damione and Sharon Wright saw a market opportunity for safety gloves and, through their Wrights Hardware business, established Ironclad gloves.

Mr Wright said the Ironclad work gloves offered improved dexterity, breathability, protection and comfort than their competitors.

He said Ironclad had "revolutionised" the way the working world viewed gloves, using technical fabrics that lasted longer, breathed better, regulated body temperature, decreased odour, pulled sweat off a worker's skin, and blocked UV radiation.

"Work gloves have been around for a long time, they've been worn in industrial settings for decades too, but hand injuries are found to be at the top of the most common type of workplace injury," Mr Wright said.

"I am the first person to admit that workplace processes and procedures need to be closely scrutinised to mitigate as much as possible the incidence of injury.

"But so long as people are employed to complete tasks then there is a very good chance that they will continue to use their hands and, as such, will remain vulnerable to injuries.

"As with other personal protective equipment, be it steel-cap boots, safety eyewear or hearing protection, work gloves are an insurance policy.

"And the inherent value of that policy is reflective in how comprehensive it is, or otherwise the quality of its coverage."

Mr Wright said there were benefits to work gloves beyond the obvious safety component - improved productivity, reduced administration and logistic costs, lower workers' compensation premiums, and improved workplace morale.

"Yes, our gloves look great too - all this from a quality work glove," Mr Wright said.

To encourage employers to stop using cheap alternatives and buy Ironclad gloves, Mr Wright has employed several strategies to change workplace perceptions.

To assist end users and the companies that employ them appreciate the value of working hands, Mr Wright's small business, which employs seven full-time staff and 60 contracted personnel, liaises with businesses to implement work-safe policies.

"We've established a solid and loyal distribution base. Because our products are of the highest quality, we expect the knowledge which complements it to also be of the highest quality," Mr Wright said.

"To become a distributor you don't just call with promises of a big order.

"Like a family, we value partnerships and are supportive of growth.

"Every day we work on promoting the value and importance of working hands; it's just part of our job and responsibility."

To date, Ironclad gloves are used by BHP Billiton, Woodside, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Santos.

In one example, Santos had reduced its consumption of safety gloves from 35,000 cheaper pairs each year, to about 3,500 Ironclad job-specific gloves.

"We have proven that high-quality, task-specific hand protection saves a lot more than just a few hand injuries," Mr Wright said.

Ironclad works closely with industry to develop its gloves, surveying workers and developing prototypes to match task-specific situations based on comprehensive responses.

The business has developed more than 50 different types of gloves for almost every occupation - from welders to riggers, police officers and sportspeople.

The gloves are manufactured in China, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Some gloves are developed through nanotechnology or are sonically welded and could be formed using more than 20 different materials sourced from all over the world.

Ironclad works closely with buyers and occupational health and safety representatives to ensure the required gloves suit the job's purpose and also match budgetary requirements.

In doing this, the business has penetrated the resources market and grown considerably, employing two additional full-time staff in the past year, as well as doubling turnover and increasing sales.

"The competition is always looking for ways to get a piece of the action too," Mr Wright said.

"Copying is the greatest form of flattery. But don't try too hard because many of our features are protected and also it's a lot more difficult and a lot more involved than what meets the eye."

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