HomeRailStaff AwardsRailStaff Awards: From one family to another

RailStaff Awards: From one family to another

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In its 130-year history, Bollé has grown from a small cottage-based business in the French Alps to one of the world’s leading manufacturers of premium eyewear products. 

Some of the country’s biggest infrastructure projects: Crossrail, Thames Tideway and Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, all trust the company to protect their workforces through its range of stylish Bollé Safety-branded glasses, goggles and accessories. 

Bollé brought its expertise to the UK market in the 1970s and, off the back of securing major supply contracts and a growing reputation, has experienced “significant growth” over the last few years.

“Customers are becoming increasingly aware of eye protection and, not just through the large projects but generally across the UK and Ireland, we’ve seen sales grow,” said Ian Walbeoff, Bollé Safety’s general manager. 

“Whatever industry, sector or market we go into, if you give our product to anyone who works in them, the first thing they’ll do is pick them up, put them on and think ‘yeah, I look good in these’. Of course the objective is that they wear their eye protection and that it eliminates eye injuries or worse.”


With a background in optometry, and having worked at Bollé Safety since 1990, Ian has a lot of experience in the field of safety eyewear. 

He said the company has a long history of innovation, which runs through its core. 

Back in 1888 when Bollé was established it manufactured plastic products in the French region of Oyonnax – known as the ‘Silcon Valley’ of the plastics industry. 

“Originally they started manufacturing plastic hair products,” said Ian. “The technology of manufacturing and the different types of materials were changing with the introduction of nylons, which Bollé started building into plastics. Then it went from frames into safety frames and concentrating on the safety aspect.”

Bollé started producing sunglasses and optical frames in the 1930s, safety spectacles in the 1940s and then into manufacturing ski glasses in the 1960s.

Ian said that Bollé has a lot in the pipeline, particularly surrounding the development of reactive lenses and new coatings to stop oil and paint sticking to lenses, all without comprising on style and comfort.

He added: “What makes our products stand out is the combination of style and comfort. If someone’s going to wear the product all day every day for eight hours a day then they want to be comfortable in them.”

Family connection

Bollé was established by the same-name family in 1888 and those roots and spirit remain to this day. 

Last year the family firm backed the RailStaff Awards to give something back to the wider rail industry family. 

This year it once more returns to sponsor the Rail Safety Person or Team of the Year category. 

Ian added: “We supported the awards last year and we are sponsoring the safety award again. 

“We as a company, being a safety eyewear manufacturer, wanted to recognise the importance of safety and individuals who promote safety within the workplace. It is sometimes difficult to get the uptake in PPE and get people to understand the reasons behind why they need to wear safety products. So we want to support them as much as possible in their day to day work.”

Last year’s safety award was given to the Milton Keynes Escalation Team (pictured) by Bollé Safety’s European managing director Damien Guillobez.

Between July and November, 2017, a series of suspected suicides on the rail network in the Milton Keynes area raised cause for concern.

The incidents, which were having a huge impact on the local communities and on the rail industry, led to representatives from the area’s train operators, emergency services and mental health services forming a multi-agency taskforce to tackle the problem head on.

Working together, the group – which included representatives from Network Rail, Samaritans, BTP, West Midlands Trains, Virgin Trains, Thames Valley Police and other stakeholders – pursued a range of different work streams that focused on information sharing and community engagement to increase the chances of human intervention and to promote help-seeking.

As a result, there were no further suspected suicides on the lines in this area, with seven recorded lifesaving interventions recorded by the time of the nomination.

Ian added: “Last year was a really, really good night. We’ve been to the NEC for many years for exhibitions so to then turn up into one of those great halls and see how they transformed it was amazing. It was a really strange sensation going from an exhibition to wow!” 

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