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Pane sailing as glass firm's safety first approach pays dividends; Neil Hodgson meets KEVIN GORMAN, founder of Britplas.

KEVIN GORMAN'S skill as a natural problem solver has catapulted his company onto the international stage.

From small beginnings with just two staff, Warrington-based Britplas has now opened its own facilities in Woolston.

It employs more than 60 staff and has established a worldwide reputation for a safety window ideal for secure institutions.

Safevent, designed by Mr Gorman, prevents suicide by hanging, as well as preventing escape and self-harm, while allowing maximum natural ventilation which can save on air conditioning bills.

Mr Gorman had worked in windows and double glazing since he was 19, mainly on domestic contracts.

Their high-quality standards involved work such as a conservatory for former Liverpool footballer John Arne Riise and a job for Everton's Tim Cahill.

He said: "We did the odd commercial job as well, such as a few schools."

But, after setting up a separate company to supply the firm, as well as others in the sector, which was also "buyable in its own right" he was approached by a project manager working on Liverpool's Rathbone secure mental health hospital. "They had had 27 window companies in to supply windows for that job," he said.

As a low-security drug rehabilitation hospital, he said they needed the safest window they could get which could also provide ventilation, and stop drugs being passed through windows.

Mr Gorman designed his own product, the Safevent window, and said: "I took a sample, which coincided with a board meeting - which was serendipity - and when they saw it they were over the moon."

Britplas won the contract, and, once it was completed in August, 2006, sales for Safevent soared.

Safevent has now been adopted as the window to specify on all NHS secure facilities, with in excess of 15,000 being installed in more than 250 sites.

Mr Gorman said: "Once word got out, we have not had to chase any work. Now we have contracts from Scotland to Hastings.

"Once we put it on our website, we have had interest from Australia."

Contracts for Safevent in the past few weeks amounted to pounds 2m, including pounds 500,000-worth of orders from Australia.

And, earlier this month,Britplas hosted a delegation from the USA, which offers a market roughly five times the size of that in the UK.

Safevent now represents 85% of Britplas revenues, but Mr Gorman's unique solution has opened up potential for other products, such as bathroom soap dispensers within secure institutions which prevent suicide attempts by hanging.

This is as well as a new type of bedroom door and a new form of anti-ligature mesh fencing which allows patients to see out, but restricts vision from the public side to protect patient privacy.

Mr Gorman said: "I have always been good at solving problems, and we have a good team that does exactly the same."

He added: "The answer is 'yes', the question is how?" Since the launch of Safevent, Britplas has seen turnover double yearon-year for the past five years to just over pounds 6m, for the year to December, 2010.

This year's sales are expected to reach pounds 8m.

Mr Gorman said: "We have managed to buck the trend by being innovative in a niche market.

"We are not just making windows.

They have the potential to save lives. It is a big responsibility, but satisfying."

Expansion has led to 15 jobs being created ahead of the relocation to its new 42,000 sq ft headquarters.

Mr Gorman said: We have been looking for the right building to buy for well over a year. This unit will make us much more efficient and allow us to expand further without the need to move again."

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A Britplas worker at the Woolston plant Pictures: ANDREW TEEBAY/ at091211bbritplas-2
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 28, 2011
Words:624
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