Safety Firm Fires Up Export Opportunities

Assistance from Invest Northern Ireland is helping an innovative Antrim firm build business in export markets with its range of specialist health and safety services.

BHB Fire and Specialist Training Consultants offers a diverse range of fully accredited health and safety courses for private and public sector organisations, including basic fire and first aid training, as well as more specialised services including breathing apparatus and confined space training. Support from Invest NI has helped BHB increase its share of business in the GB and RoI markets and assisted in the creation of two new jobs.

Key to BHB’s expansion in export markets is a new state-of-the-art training facility which includes a purpose built confined space simulator – the first of its specification in Ireland. The facility was officially opened today in Antrim.

“Every day, up to forty thousand people in Ireland enter confined spaces such as water pipes, food tanks, petrol tanks and aircraft wings,” says Kevin Howlette, managing director, BHB. “With over thirty fatalities annually, it is vital that such workers and their companies are trained by qualified, accredited personnel at purpose built training sites, in order to minimise risks and prevent serious accidents.”

“Our key focus is to improve standards of health and safety in the workplace and ensure effective management of emergency situations. Invest NI’s support will be vital as we actively target the GB and RoI markets to strengthen our presence, promote our wide range of services and identify new opportunities.”

Kevin - originally a chartered chemist - is one of only 14 safety professionals in Ireland to be fully accredited by the Construction Industry Training Board and FAS, Ireland’s National Training and Employment Authority. Kevin and his business partner Mark Boyd, have 30 years of fire fighting experience. Their skills, combined with the new facility, have already attracted advance bookings, leading to a projected increase in turnover of more than 50% for 2006.

George McKinney, manager of Invest NI’s North Eastern Local Office based in Ballymena adds: “Strict health and safety legislation means that firms must have access to the very best training and advice if they are to meet legal requirements. BHB has recognised this need and successfully captured a niche market. With a unique facility, highly qualified staff and a location which offers convenient transport links, BHB is well positioned to further develop business opportunities outside Northern Ireland.”

In addition to the training focused side of the business, BHB is enjoying global success with its safety equipment servicing facility which has attracted customers from across Europe and the Far East.

“Specialist servicing skills are difficult to find,” adds Kevin Howlette. “Our high standards of customer service and technical expertise have secured repeat contracts from international firms. This area has grown significantly for us over the past 3 years and I am confident that it will expand further as we continue to develop our training business in export markets.”