Preventive home medicine

Can withstand two kinds of destructive forces, uplift and shear, which create structural damage during hurricanes and earthquakes. The nail features a 25 percent larger head than a conventional nail to prevent plywood from ripping off in strong winds.

A study released by the National Safety Council last month revealed some pretty shocking statistics. While accidental injuries in the United States are down percentage-wise both on the job and on the road, the rate of incidents in America’s homes and neighborhoods has increased dramatically—30 percent in the last 15 years.

Statistics like these suggest the broad category of home safety—both for the DIY consumer and for the home itself—stands to gain in perception as well as product distribution.

“It’s gotten to the point where we feel it’s important to address it with the public,” said Elizabeth Wilson, executive director for community and public affairs for the NSC. “People do not apply the safety precautions you see in the workplace at home, things like wearing goggles and gloves—personal safety etiquette.”

NSC injury data shows that in 2005, there were more than 113,000 preventable deaths and 24 million disabling injuries in the United States—and more than half of all injury-related deaths and 75 percent of all disabling injuries occurred in and around the home.

The NSC has been trying to increase awareness and change behaviors through “Celebrating Safe Communities,” an educational campaign that encourages home-owners to take safety precautions in the home—whether that means updating their electrical systems with GFCI outlets or wearing the proper safety equipment when doing a home improvement project. The NSC sends information out to its 50,000 members—which include businesses, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations—making available to them posters, safety tips and other information.

The manufacturing community is also taking steps to increase safety awareness among consumers. MSA Safety Works is a company that makes consumer oriented safety products for respiratory, eye, hearing and body/fall protection. According to John Quinn, the company’s market manager, retail and construction markets, the industry has a long way to go in making consumers aware of the need for these products within the home.

“Studies show that 92 percent of people walking into a home center are not considering safety, even if they’re undertaking a big project,” Quinn said. “We have to attract their attention and try to change the way people think about safety as an afterthought.”

Quinn estimates the North American consumer safety market to be around $200 million, and he says it’s growing more rapidly than the hardware market as a whole. “Even where comps for certain categories are down, safety products are up,” he said.

Many retailers are also reporting sales increases in the safety category. Michael McCoy, Do it Best’s merchandise manager for hand tools, says the safety category has grown in the last couple of years—not so much in number of new skus but in terms of “improvements to products and packaging,” which are more “consumer friendly.” He also points to an increase in the fashion appeal of safety glasses, licensed products and new items focused on the female user.

For example, AOSafety last year launched Safety Select, a line of safety products aimed at the female consumer. Endorsed by Amy Wynn Pastor of TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” the line features fashion colors, and the safety glasses, goggles and ear muffs are sized smaller to better fit a woman’s face. McCoy said the Do it Best stores carrying the line have done very well with it.

“They don’t look like the glasses you used in high school science class anymore,” he said.

Walt Bauer, True Value’s global product merchant, hardware and automotive, did a line review of the safety category three years ago and updated the mix in all categories, including eyewear, hearing and breathing protection.

“Significant additions were made, particularly in the eyewear category that has doubled in size in the last four years,” Bauer said. “The results of the review had significant impact on growing the category for the co-op.”

Although overall safety product sales have been flat this year, True Value is seeing growth in eyewear (goggles and glasses) and safety gloves. Bauer’s team was set to review the category again last month and was expected to update and increase the sku count in the retail and wholesale assortments. “We anticipate having a fresh planogram for our stores to introduce this fall,” Bauer said.

To create consumer pull-through, MSA Safety Works presents the “Safety Squad,” a team that travels around the country in two hardhat-shaped vehicles and does demonstrations in neighborhoods and at hardware stores and home centers, including True Value and Home Depot. Last year, the Safety Squad targeted the massive rebuilding effort in the Gulf Coast region, trying to create public awareness on the importance of using proper protective equipment such as safety glasses, hearing protection and respirators when tackling DIY projects.

In addition, Home Depot holds its own home safety clinics that enable participants to do the following: identify areas in the home that can be modified to improve child safety, fire and electrical safety and home security; install a lockset and a GFCI outlet; engrave valuables with a dremel tool; and recall basic safety practices for home improvement projects.

Leviton, a leading producer of electrical and electronic products, is also trying to educate consumers through the Leviton Institute, which issues two newsletters each year in an attempt to spread the word on safety to newspapers and other media outlets. “Typically, we’ll talk about things homeowners can do to make sure GFCIs are installed in certain areas of the home,” said Pam Winikoff, a spokeswoman for Leviton.

In addition, in 2008, the NEC code will change to require all receptacles installed be tamper evident. “That’s going to have a dramatic impact in terms of electrical safety,” Winikoff said.

Another area of home safety that has increased in size and scope is hurricane safety products. These include wind-proof windows, nails, staples and other products that can be particularly vulnerable to the effects of high winds associated with a hurricane, earthquake and other natural occurrences.

Silver Line offers the Weather Stopper line of impact resistant windows and patio doors, which have been marketed mostly to storm-prone areas like Florida, the Gulf Coast region and along the Eastern Seaboard. Silver Line introduced impact resistant windows around 2000 and the components, including DuPont SentryGlas, are continually being refined and improved.

“Katrina really drove sales in the second half of 2005 and into 2006, but people have short memories,” said Andy Karr, vp-marketing and advertising for Silver Line. “Later in 2006 and into 2007, we’ve seen a reasonable decline.”

In response, Silver Line is promoting safety education through in-store displays and collateral print materials. The company’s Weather Stopper products are available in home centers and building supply stores, and the company’s private label brand, American Craftsman, is exclusive to Home Depot stores. “We display that information for the consumer to become more educated on our products and code requirements, testing protocol and other information,” Karr said.

In the same category, Hy-Lite StormBlocker acrylic block windows feature a polycarbonate reinforced core and high-strength aluminum frame, allowing the acrylic block windows to help resist storm-force winds and rain. StormBlocker windows, which are pending approval from the Florida Building Code, achieved a 90 DP rating, equivalent to a 230 mph wind speed when tested on a 50-inch by 90-inch acrylic block window.

“This window is ideal for storm-prone areas and can complement an impact-resistant window package for any coastal home,” according to Jack Nugent, president of Hy-Lite Products.

Another major product innovation of the last few years are HurriQuake nails from Bostitch, which are designed to withstand two very different types of destructive forces—uplift and shear—the forces that account for the vast majority of structural damage during hurricanes and earthquakes, the company said.

The HurriQuake nail features nearly a 25 percent larger head than a conventional nail to prevent plywood from ripping off in winds up to 170 mph. And the cost added to building a home with these versus conventional nails is just $20 to $45, on average, according to Todd Langston, director of brand management for Bostitch.

Consumer awareness of safety products has increased—especially in the aftermath of Katrina—but he says it’s up to the industry to help drive home the importance of investing in storm-proof products. Bostitch last month began providing an informative palette display in 160 Lowe’s stores where HurriQuake nails will have exclusive distribution. The display calls out features and benefits of the product and offers sample nail packages, sell sheets, brochures and launch kits.

“The more we can make people think about safety—and not for a lot of extra money—the better off homeowners will be,” he said. “People need to educate themselves on what products are wind-resistant and which are wind-proof. It’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to products that build a safer structure.”

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