Safe Eyes is a classic example of Kiwi design ingenuity mixed with a liberal dose of No.8 wire mentality. Realising no one was manufacturing the type of safety goggles he required for his forestry business, Wairarapa entrepreneur Phil Hall set out to design and manufacture his own.

The result is Safe Eyes, a unique safety goggle constructed of fine stainless steel mesh set within a moulded plastic frame. The goggles, which have a huge range of potential uses from the logging, mining and building industries to home DIY and school workshops, are already attracting interest internationally.

“There’s a huge demand out there which vindicates the five years’ research and development to refine and improve the goggles,” says Mr Hall.

Mr Hall, who employs more than 20 pruners and thinners working in Wairarapa forests realised five years ago that there was a gap in the market, and that his workers were potentially at risk.

“Back then we were simply using visors attached to our safety helmets. But the plastic was too far from the users’ eyes, which affected visibility. The visors also blocked up easily and were unsuitable because wood chips and other material could still fly up under and through the visors.”

Mr Hall and his team tried a variety of anti-fog goggles but found none could withstand the rigours of daily life in a forestry team, scratched easily and did just what they were not supposed to do – fogged up.

So he set about creating his own goggles, experimenting with a variety of mesh sizes until he found the ideal gauge rolled up in an acquaintance’s Masterton workshop.

“At that stage we were using persplex goggles, ripping out the persplex and hot gluing in the wire mesh, which we cut by hand. It was an improvement but far from the ideal fix.”

A local company helped source an adapted cardboard cutting press tool to cut out the mesh, which Phil was by now having imported direct from the United States. Palmerston North-based ATS Tooling designed and developed moulding tools for the plastic surrounds, which are produced by Masterton company Pike’s Plastics. A local car spray painter colours the stainless steel mesh black.

“That’s the beauty of living in a region like the Wairarapa,” says Phil. “There are a lot of clever people with specific skills that are only too willing to lend a hand. And we’ve benefited from advice and development funding from NZTE.

“At present we’re basically producing to order but we have the processes in place to greatly increase product levels to meet demand.”

Safe Eyes are being used by two Wairarapa colleges, an aluminium boat builder, forestry workers and South Pacific Specialists who supplies mining companies around the Pacific. Training institutions and timber mills have also approached Phil.

“But we’re still small enough to operate largely from home. And hanging on our wall is the first cheque we received from our first paying customer, a Nelson forestry contractor.”