The Business of Safety


jelcoBy Anna Guy

For 125 years, Jelco has been synonymous with quality harnesses, lanyards, lineman belts, pole straps and other fall protection equipment. But for CEO and President Philip B. Clemmons, Jelco isn’t just a manufacturer. Jelco is in the business of safety.

“Our job is to make sure anyone who works at heights comes home at the end of the day,” says Clemmons from his Alabama office. “Just like I want my own son to be safe while out there climbing, we consider the safety of every individual in our products. It’s why every one of our employees signs a quality policy on core principles—because no matter how small their role, it comes together for the big picture,” Clemmons says passionately.

Established in 1892 by J.E. Lortie, Jelco had been in the Lortie family for three generations when the Clemmons family bought the company in 1998. The Clemmons understand the delicacy of life all too well; Philip and his sister Katherine took over Jelco in 2008 after a tragic plane accident took the lives of their parents. Perhaps it makes their commitment to safeguard their clients’ employees a little more personal.

The Clemmons were a natural choice to buy Jelco; their previous business, a small, family-owned Fall Protection Company delivered products with a focused providing the highest quality available at competitive prices. Now with Jelco, they are able to supply the needs of the telecommunications and utilities companies across North America, the Caribbean, and parts of Asia and Africa. In fact, Jelco has been servicing these markets since the emergence of telegraph communication and electric energy distribution. The Lorties began to manufacture leather pole climbing belts and straps for the new wood poles that sprouted up across the continent. Since then Jelco has created a legacy for designing and manufacturing fall prevention devices.

Premium Quality

Of course, a lot have changed in these industries in 125 years. Jelco has remained at the forefront of quality and safety policies by always evolving. “Status quo is never good enough in business, and we constantly change–it’s a good thing and a challenge we proudly take up,” says Clemmons. “We are constantly looking at innovative ways to make our products more user friendly, lighter, using materials that are stronger, safer, and more durable, not just with equipment, but we also change in the way we do things.”

However, adds Clemmons, somethings remain the same. Some products are still made partially by hand in the Montreal facilities. “If you can imagine making a belt 30 years ago, it was all by hand, and we still do that believe it or not, we still cut the leather by hand, with very experienced leather craftsmen.”

Setting the Standard

When it comes to safety and testing, Jelco is leading the industry. Not only are its products are tested in accordance with and meet or exceed applicable standards of OSHA, ANSI, CSA, and ASTM, Jelco is ISO 9001:2015 certified with a dedication to its management program. But beyond its own walls, the Jelco team makes significant contributions to progress in safety standards industry-wide; Clemmons is a member of the Canadian Standards Association committee, ANSI, and ASTM International.

Of being on the forefront of safety, Jelco “takes a hard look at not just our company, but how do we protect the workers of today; how do we reduce the falls and fatalities, and how can we make things safer in the industry overall? What policies and procedures and products can ensure this? We have always been involved, and because we are out there as a leader, Jelco is also first out the door with the products that will best service clients.”

Jelco is proud to be a small, family-run business that attracts large, high-profile clients. By remaining small, Jelco has retained the agility and flexibility that clients require when specialty products are needed with short notice. Through customizable products such as harnesses, lineman belts, lanyards and tree saddles, tool bags and the selection of components, Jelco believes in its ability to service its clients through a tradition of expert manufacturing, inspection, shipping and customer service.