SEA at 40: A Chronicle of Innovation and Safety
Laying the Foundations for a Safety Revolution.
In 1984, Goran and Flisa Berndtsson founded Safety Equipment Australia (SEA) as a small family business, starting as the exclusive agent for Sundström products. The company, rooted in family ties and a dedication to safety, began its journey with door-to-door sales and a strong focus on training and technical support.
This hands-on approach was more than just selling products; it was about educating users on the importance of respiratory protection.
Graham Powe, Managing Director, recalls the early days.
“SEA started with a clear mission to educate the industry. The auto repair shops on the Northern Beaches of Sydney were our first clients. We didn’t just sell products; we taught people why they needed them.”
A period of rapid growth followed with SEA establishing customers such as aluminium smelters and large mining groups.
The latter part of the decade saw SEA diversifying its product range, adding Peltor hearing protection in 88 and becoming the Australian exclusive agent for two additional Swedish brands, Interspiro and Trelleborg protective products, in 89.
For SEA, the 80s were not just about establishing a business; they were about developing a culture of safety and setting a standard for excellence that would define the company for years to come.
A Decade of Pioneering R&D and Expansion.
In the 90s, SEA embarked on an evolutionary journey, pivoting towards intensive research and development.
SEA delved into studying human physiology’s interaction with respiratory protection. This led to the establishment of an in-house lab and engineering department, marking a significant step towards self-driven innovation.
SEA’s commitment to superior product quality was evident. The crowning achievement was the launch of the SE400 positive pressure demand PAPR, a pioneering product with built-in software management.
As Graham Powe recalls, “Our solutions were much more advanced than what was available at the time.”
This period of intense R&D and expansion solidified SEA’s reputation as an innovator and leader in the respiratory protection industry.
Navigating Local and Global Challenges.
The 2000s were transformative. SEA organised the International Society of Respiratory Protection (ISRP) conference in Sydney and also supplied the SE400 units to emergency services for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
SEA responded to global events too, supplying products for the Olympic Games in Greece in 2004 and to various U.S. departments following the 9/11 attacks.
“These events tested our capabilities and expanded our reach. We were no longer just an Australian company; we were a global player,” Powe notes.
By Mid-2005, there was a noticeable shift in market demand.
SEA adapted by streamlining its operations and consolidating its efforts in sales, customer service, technical support, and R&D. “We learned to be agile, to anticipate market needs, and to always stay a step ahead,” says Powe.
In recent years, SEA has further solidified its position as a leader in the field through ongoing research and scholarships with Australian universities focused on respiratory solutions to end-users.
Planning for Tomorrow's Safety Opportunities.
Today, SEA’s core product remains Sundström, with a growing market share in the Australian respiratory protection range across all industries and government agencies.
Powe reflects on the journey, “Our story is about resilience, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of safety. As we look ahead, our focus remains on education, quality, and serving the needs of our customers.”
From its humble beginnings to becoming a leader in respiratory protection, SEA’s journey is a chronicle of staff dedication, product innovation, and a commitment to making a difference in helping safeguard lives.
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