In focus: MSA Safety

In focus: MSA Safety

The history of MSA Safety in the Middle East fire market and its plans for the future with Yassin Afroukh, the Middle East Sales Manager at MSA Safety.

How and when was MSA founded?

MSA Safety began as the Mine Safety Appliances Company in 1914, following a mining tragedy in West Virginia, USA.  Its founders created a revolutionary electric cap lamp which helped to prevent mine explosions.  Ever since, MSA has enjoyed a long history of creating innovative products to improve workplace safety in a broad range of markets including the oil, gas and petrochemical industry, the construction industry, mining and the military, and in particular the fire service. 

What are the company’s core products today?

Today, MSA’s core products for the fire industry include self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), firefighter helmets and protective clothing, gas and flame detection systems, portable gas detection instruments and fall protection devices, which are sold around the world.  

How long has MSA been established in the Middle East?

Because of our expertise in gas detection, MSA has always been well-placed to support and supply the many oil and gas companies in the Middle East, and we have many long-standing customers in the region.   We established an office in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the early 1980s, and since then, our provision of safety equipment to oil and gas customers in the Gulf region has seen considerable expansion through important relationships with a number of Channel Partners situated across UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.  In addition, our specialist firefighting PPE and safety equipment is required for Civil Defence fire services as well as industrial firefighting teams operating in refineries and petrochemical plants.  

How has the acquisition of Bristol Uniforms strengthened MSA’s offering in the region?

In 2021, acquisition brought Bristol Uniforms into the MSA family, which has served to strengthen our offering in the Middle East and is providing exciting opportunities to access new markets in the region.

Now known as MSA Bristol, Bristol Uniforms had long been a pioneer in the development of specialist firefighter PPE and is another company with strong historical connections in the Middle East.  It was here that Bristol established links with its first overseas distributors back in the 1970s, which has paved the way for a long-standing and prominent presence for the Bristol brand.  Today, MSA Bristol Channel Partners are situated across UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, supplying MSA Bristol protective clothing to Civil Defence forces in these countries and to industrial firefighters.

As a result of the acquisition, MSA Safety is now the only company offering such an extensive and comprehensive portfolio of safety solutions in the Middle East.  We can now provide both industrial and civil defence markets with full top-to-toe protection for their firefighters, with our unprecedented range comprising firefighter helmets, protective clothing, self-contained breathing apparatus and a suite of high-tech safety detection and communications devices.

Who are MSA’s key customers in the Gulf region?

MSA supplies safety solutions such as portable gas detection and fixed gas and flame detection, head protection and fall protection devices, to many oil and gas industry customers in the region, such as Aramco (the Saudi Arabian public petroleum and natural gas company) and ADNOC (the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company).  

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for firefighters is supplied to the National Civil Defence Forces in Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Oman, as well as to the in-house firefighting teams of companies such as the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO).

What are the preferences for firefighting PPE and equipment amongst Civil Defence customers?

In general, Civil Defence customers tend to prefer kit and equipment certified to standards set by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN).  All of MSA Bristol’s structural firefighting protective clothing ranges meet CEN standards, including the popular XFlex range and the brand new Bristol X4 which has just been introduced to the Middle East market.  National Civil Defence Forces in both Qatar and UAE, for example, have opted for the XFlex design which features a Gore Crosstech moisture barrier, and Hainsworth’s TITAN1220 outer layer.  It’s supplied in Paris Blue to Qatar Civil Defence and Desert Tan to UAE Civil Defence.  This kit is perfect for the job because it is ergonomically designed, with distinctive sports styling, enabling excellent range of movement and flexibility which helps firefighters carry out a variety of physical roles more effectively.  

For firefighting helmets, MSA’s iconic Gallet F1FX helmet continues to be a popular choice and meets the European standard EN443:2008.  Functional and versatile, it fits perfectly with MSA Bristol’s protective hoods and structural firefighting jackets. Similarly, MSA’s M1 SCBA also suits the needs of Civil Defence forces in that it offers a modular system which can be upgraded to accommodate advancing technologies.

How does this differ to the preferences of firefighters working in industry?

Traditionally, companies in the oil and gas industry in the Middle East prefer to adhere to international standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which is widely used throughout the USA, Latin America and the Asia/Pacific region.  As such our NFPA certified range of breathing apparatus, PPE and helmets are generally preferred by these industrial firefighting teams. These include our G1 SCBA, which offers integrated and enhanced solutions including an intuitive alarm system, user interface, telemetry radio module, head-up-display and voice amplifier. Equally, our MSA Cairns range of NFPA-compliant helmets is particularly popular in these industries, providing traditional U.S. firehouse designs as well as modern styles with retractable visors, jet-style helmets, and low-profile rescue helmets.  

What are the latest products and innovations MSA has brought to the market?

Recent innovations include our Connected Firefighter Platform: a suite of advanced safety technologies that work together to significantly improve firefighter monitoring, accountability and communication.  One of these technologies is LUNAR, a handheld device providing personal thermal imaging and Firefighting Assisting Search Technology (F.A.S.T.), which alerts and guides teammates to downed team members.  When working in conjunction with the M1 SCBA, LUNAR can also transmit vital SCBA data such as cylinder air pressure, battery status and various alarm indicators.  Another key component of the Platform is MSA’s FireGrid software services which enable incident commanders to evaluate and manage multiple situations, in real time, and from any location.

MSA has also recently launched a versatile and modular rescue helmet to suit a variety of roles. The Gallet F2XR has a selection of accessories, that can be adapted for use in a wide range of first responder applications including wildland firefighting, technical rescue, police operations and medical emergencies. 

In addition, Intersec will see the introduction of a brand-new design in firefighting protective clothing to the Middle East market.  The Bristol X4 takes elements from our popular XFlex range but offers an even more streamlined and ergonomic fit.

 What are MSA’s plans and aspirations for the future?

MSA is already seeing the benefits of our expanded offering in the Middle East, and we have firm plans to further extend and consolidate our market share here, working closely with our Channel Partners to maximise new opportunities.  In the first instance, we are looking to expand our influence in Saudi Arabia, by establishing a team dedicated to supplying the government’s Civil Defence sector. We are also identifying more opportunities to supply the military sector in the Middle East, with contracts coming in for PPE and equipment for the Qatar Army, and UAE Army and Airforce, for example.

We are very proud of the strong relationships we have built in the Middle East and look forward to continued success in the region, widening our international reach and providing the very best protective equipment to the world’s firefighters.