Safety First as Vector Makes Fire Retardant Uniforms Standard (06/09/2002)

Vector, one of New Zealand’s largest electricity networks, has invested more than quarter of a million dollars introducing fire retardant uniforms for all front line contractors and staff.

Twelve hundred uniforms have been uniquely manufactured for Vector from top-of-the-line fire retardant fabric ’Indura Ultra Soft’ and will be standard issue from October.

The ‘Indura Ultra Soft’ fabric is the latest innovation from Westex, a US-based company with more than 50 years experience producing flame resistant textiles.

“Our mission at Vector is to ensure every worker goes home safely every night. The introduction of this world-class fire retardant technology takes us another step closer to realising our ‘zero tolerance toward work place accidents’ vision,” said Vector's Health & Safety manager Phil Davis.

Mr Davis said an accident in April, where a Vector worker suffered severe burns from a flashover, along with extensive assessments and recommendation by US based Duke Energy, promoted the electricity network’s decision to make fire retardant uniforms standard.

“Near misses like that reinforce the need for safety to always be at the top of everyone’s agenda,” says Mr Davis. “Since 1999 we have reduced our Lost Time Injury rate significantly from 20 to 1.1. However April’s accident was a timely reminder that even one accident is one too many, and that, when it comes to worker safety, you can never afford to be complacent.”

To that end, Mr Davis says the message to all VECTOR staff and contractors is clear – safety guidelines are a critical part of the job and every worker needs to take personal responsibility for their own well being. Safe work practice is of the utmost importance but the fire retardant uniforms will help to minimise any burn injuries.

Vector's new uniforms are made from treated cotton with a 12 percent high tenacity nylon weave. The addition of the nylon enhances the fabric’s protective performance – especially against electricity arcs and flash fire exposures.

“We spent a lot of time researching what products were available before finally settling on Indura. Our people are our most important asset so it was imperative that we use the very best,” said Mr Davis.

Mr Davis says that apart from offering increased protection, the new uniforms will also deliver on comfort. The breathable fabric will keep workers cooler while the “Ultra Soft” label will be a welcome change from traditionally uncomfortable or scratchy working fabrics.

The new uniforms have been custom made in New Zealand by Yakka.