Emily May, Jaedon managing director
Fifteen years ago, Jaedon was making tracksuits for the All Blacks. Today, it’s a major designer and manufacturer of safety garments, operating out of Auckland and working with utilities around Australia. ES&D catches up with Emily May, managing director of the family business, to hear about advances in protective clothing and why it’s important to trust your supplier.
Bushfire season is approaching, which always poses a safety risk to electrical workers. What kind of R&D goes on behind the scenes every year to make sure safety standards and industrial requirements are up-to-date?
Health and safety is a major part of energy businesses and Australian and New Zealand safety requirements are evolving all the time – so it’s important industry keeps ahead of the curve. We’ve just developed a new style of fire retardant chainsaw chaps for the rural fire fighters. The chaps were designed in conjunction with the NZ Fire Service and, so far, the field trials have been very positive. We’ve also just finished some work on the some fire retardant Snake Chaps, which followed on from an enquiry for standard snake-chaps. We thought a little further with this need and figured it may also be a requirement when fighting bush fires – to have leg protection that was fire-retardant but also offering protection from snakes.
Jaedon has been around for 20 years. What changes have you seen in the clothing industry for energy workers?
Arriving on the market in the ‘90s, we’d seen the relaxed safety standards of the previous decades. In 2007 we started to focus on the electrical industry and realised there was lack of specialist personal protective equipment (PPE) gear. The attitude of “she’ll be right” was starting to be challenged, so we worked closely with Joe Spataro who was at Siemens at the time. We developed fire-retardant arc-rated overalls, which we started supplying to companies in New Zealand. From there we have created a range of garments for utilities, from arc-rated thermal undergarments through to wet weather jackets and over-trousers.
And of course, there have been huge developments in fabrics that give protection from arc-flash hazards.
Exactly. We are always looking at new fabrics and what we can use them for. The awareness and usage of arc-rated garments has dramatically increased within New Zealand and Australia within the last few years. More and more people are getting educated on what is required and should be worn and, from that, we have developed garments for specific tasks – from level one everyday wear through to switching suits for switch-room work.
Counterfeit and imported garments are easily available online, but do these pose risks to energy workers operating in Australian conditions?
They have very harsh conditions in Australia; so naturally, there are unique requirements when it comes to garments. We work closely with our fabric suppliers who are leading experts in their own fields. For example, our fire-retardant fabrics are sourced from large American mills, which are continually developing new fabrics, which we can draw from and adapt for local conditions. We have also developed our own fabrics in conjunction with different mills, and all garments are tested and re-tested to make sure they stand the test of time. There will always be counterfeit garments and fabrics; it’s really a matter of “buyer beware” – people need to be confident with their PPE gear. If people are unsure about the quality of their garments, they should ask their suppliers for the fabric test reports. Australia and New Zealand have adopted the NFPA 70E standards for testing/rating garments, which is great because we are all working to the same high standards. It also means we can draw from and use the latest technology that has been developed overseas.