Building on its heritage of over 130 years of innovation, Bollé Safety’s development of its range of eye protection has played a key role in the supply of high-quality healthcare PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Tech World speaks to vice president of sales at Bollé Safety, Ian Walbeoff, about its increasing role in protecting frontline workers in the NHS
Despite being one of the world’s leading brands in safety wear, with permeation in a host of sectors globally, Bollé Safety’s presence in the UK healthcare market was not significant in early 2020 – but now, 18 months on, has become a key aspect of its business.
With the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on frontline NHS workers, and the well-documented shortage and quality issues around PPE, Bollé Safety stepped forward like never before in healthcare, particularly in the NHS.
Building on its long track record and reputation in creating safety wear, Bollé Safety’s range of safety specs, prescription glasses, goggles and face shields provided a solution in times of huge need, giving the highest standards of protection to healthcare workers while also providing the comfort needed for work throughout their shift.
The ability to create anti-fogging for both sides of the lenses through its Platinum technology also proved a huge factor, particularly in preventing one of the main problems when glasses are worn alongside a mask.
And through answering the exact needs of the frontline during one of the most traumatic times for healthcare in living memory has seen Bollé Safety establish new NHS relationships, with its presence developing further all the time. After securing Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust as its first Trust, it is now working with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, with others set to follow.
And as its specialist healthcare division grows on the strength of demand, manufacturing of its safety eyewear has been kept within the UK, with South Wales-based RotoMedical winning the contract to produce its CURA range of PPE eyewear.
“A lot of products used by healthcare initially in the pandemic were imported from the Far East, but we wanted to offer a better product to frontline workers,” says Ian Walbeoff, vice president of sales at Bollé Safety.
“Before the pandemic, eyewear wasn’t a key piece of PPE equipment in the healthcare market, many people probably didn’t see the need for such protective eyewear in the past.
“We had never worked closely with the NHS previously, we are more of a quality manufacturer whereas they needed quantity, but the past 18 months have been interesting. There has been huge demand and after the initial panic buying, NHS Trusts are taking the time to trial what we have.”
And having been proven in their efficacy in healthcare settings over the past difficult 18 months, Bollé Safety’s products have the added benefits of being sustainable, made from recycled materials and with up to two years of wear per item, and the fact they are recyclable distinguishing them further from the single-use PPE which mainly heads to landfill after use.
“Initially, single-use face shields met the criteria at the time, but then that product would be thrown away and would go to landfill or be burnt. There was no sustainability there, which doesn’t align with the priority of the NHS and UK Government to reduce their carbon footprint,” says Ian.
“Our products can be in use for two years if they’re looked after properly, they are multi-use, and from that point of view are very cost-effective too as the cost per use reduces. Aside from the protection they give, the fact our product ranges are so environmentally-friendly is another reason we have come to the fore.”
Significant effort also goes into ensuring they are absolutely fit for purpose for every healthcare worker who uses them – in Mid Yorkshire, Bollé Safety arranged for an dispensing optician to be on-site to support around 800 people with prescription glasses, to ensure their safety eyewear fitted exactly, says Ian.
“Our safety spectacles come in different sizes and our goggles come in two sizes. There are a lot of females working in healthcare, as well as people with smaller or larger faces, and a standard fit product wouldn’t work for them. They are comfortable too for staff to wear all day, and we are getting fantastic feedback,” he says.
“It’s very important for prescription glasses wearers – many possibly won’t disinfect their glasses, and they won’t have anti-fog coating. But with our safety eyewear, the NHS Trust can supply their staff with a product which has anti-fog coating on both sides and which they can leave behind in the hospital, they’re not taking them home to pick up germs.
“One of the biggest points is the anti-fog Platinum coating on both sides of the lenses, so whether it’s in a hospital theatre or on a ward, and if someone is also wearing a mask, it doesn’t mist up. Staff can be confident in doing their job knowing they have effective eye protection.”
And through Bollé Safety’s investment in UK manufacturing to continue production of its safety eye wear, its impact goes beyond healthcare and into communities.
“This is the first opportunity we’ve had to bring manufacturing back into the UK,” adds Ian.
“We’ve been able to avoid the issues we’ve seen over the past 18 months in shipping products from overseas, reducing the carbon footprint and generating job opportunities through manufacturing and delivery.
“It’s great that we can do this and in doing so can give back to local communities.”