Carolinas Home to Over 5 Percent of U.S. Safety Equipment Industry


CarolinaFireJournal - Nicole Randall
Nicole Randall
07/07/2021 -

When you pull on that face shield or other personal protective and safety equipment, you’re wearing a piece of a $71.6 billion U.S. industry, which includes companies and workers right here in the Carolinas.

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According to a new online tool called “2020 Economic Impact of the Safety Equipment Industry” launched in May by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), the Carolinas together constitute $3.7 billion — more than five percent — of the nation’s safety equipment output.

In North Carolina, the industry has a $2.6 billion economic impact and protects 3.5 million workers, producing 13,176 jobs in the state while generating $743.7 million in wages and paying $284.9 million in federal and state taxes. In South Carolina, it has a $1.1 billion impact, protects 1.7 million workers, produces 5,238 jobs while generating $288 million in wages and paying $110.7 million in federal and state taxes.

“We offer this free online tool so that everyone, from industry and government stakeholders to curious consumers, can quickly and easily learn about the safety equipment industry’s impact and role in helping protect more than 111.1 million workers across the U.S.,” said ISEA President Charles Johnson.

The online tool includes distributors, suppliers and other interlinked impacts on America’s and each state’s economy, measuring the number of jobs in the industry, wages paid to employees, total economic output, and federal and state business taxes generated. Clicking on a state enables users to localize the data even further by congressional district.

The Carolinas are home to several safety equipment companies.


In North Carolina, these include: 3M/Scott Safety, which makes reusable respirators (gas masks, firefighter respirators, and similar equipment); Mine Safety Appliances Co., LLC, a subsidiary of MSA Safety, which manufactures firefighter helmets and air-purifying respirators; World Fibers, which produces textiles for gloves; Safe Waze, which makes fall protection equipment; and Luxfer Cylinders, which manufactures pressurized gas cylinders.


In South Carolina, Ansell — a global leader in gloves and disposable and reusable garments — bases its technical/R&D operation in Pendleton. Nitrile gloves have been in high demand during the pandemic.

Broad Safety Impact

Fire, rescue and EMS professionals are split up between two major categories of workers included in ISEA’s stats, “Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations” and “Protective Service Occupations,” showing the aggregate number of workers in those categories protected in each state.

North Carolina:

Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: 274,200

Protective Service Occupations: 97,670

South Carolina:

Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: 127,720

Protective Service Occupations: 46,860

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, a subsidiary of MSA Safety has produced its CairnsHelmets brand of firefighter helmets there since 2008. The company acquired CairnsHelmets in 2000 and then decided to relocate its manufacturing operations to North Carolina eight years later. But the Cairns® brand has been an iconic name in the fire service since its founding in 1836.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than one million firefighters in the U.S. wear fire helmets. “I know from visiting our Jacksonville facility, our entire team there has a tremendous sense of pride for the role they play in helping protect firefighters,” said Steve Blanco, president of MSA Safety’s Americas business segment and a member of the ISEA Board of Trustees. “Moreover, they know their work has a direct connection to the MSA mission, and that plays a key role in the high level of employee engagement we have there and other MSA facilities around the world.”

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) is the trade association in the U.S. for personal protective equipment and technologies. Its member companies are world leaders in the design, manufacture, testing and distribution of protective clothing and equipment used in factories, construction sites, hospitals and clinics, farms, schools, laboratories, emergency response and in the home. Since 1933, ISEA has set the standard for the personal protective equipment industry, supporting member companies united in the goal of protecting the health and safety of people worldwide.

Nicole Randall is the director of marketing and external affairs for ISEA.
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