CLOVER -- Above the receptionist's desk at International Safety Access Corp. in Clover, a series of clocks line the wall. They mark the time in just a few of the cities where ISA does business: Riyadh, London, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Clover.
The Clover corporation's global journey began in February 2006, when Eric Plant, originally from Nottingham, England, asked Roger Schwartz to join him on a trip to Toronto. Plant and Schwartz had become friends through business acquaintances and both had many years of experience in the construction industry.
Schwartz had been involved in real estate development in Lake Wylie. Plant's area of expertise was construction safety.
In Toronto, Plant introduced Schwartz to an inventor who had developed a new system of galvanized steel posts and fencing to protect construction workers on job sites. Plant and Schwartz knew it was far superior to what construction workers had been relying on for their safety.
From there, things moved very, very quickly.
"I do believe in serendipity," Schwartz says with a laugh.
Within two months, ISA Corp. was established in Clover with the help of Klear-Knit Mills' Ulf Boshamer. Fourteen employees currently make up the company. Plant is ISA's president and Schwartz is chief financial officer, while Boshamer is executive secretary.
Safety and ease of installation are what set ISA's equipment apart. Typically, elevated construction sites are protected with barriers made of timber and wire. The wood must be bolted into the floors making it a very time consuming and labor intensive process. Inspections are performed before each shift, but these kinds of barriers "provide little more than a visual barrier, really," Plant maintains. As high-rise buildings continue to climb, so does the risk of deadly accidents.
An ISA system can be installed in minutes. Each steel post has a visual gauge to ensure it has been installed securely, and the barriers are so strong a person will bounce back if they try to run through it. (This has been demonstrated -- eight stories above ground.)
The equipment can be rented or purchased, and the materials are recyclable, an important selling point today as the industry attempts to go green, they say.
OSHA estimates that four to seven people die each day on construction sites in the US. Plant says that any decrease in those figures is significant. "It's so simple, but it's saving lives," he said.
Plant regularly meets with safety auditors worldwide to promote their system and make sure ISA's equipment continues to surpass OSHA requirements as well as those of international agencies. ISA sends a representative to each new site to train the work crews on its use.
Schwartz recalls his first job site demonstration at a high-rise in Myrtle Beach. He assembled and disassembled a kit three times to prove its strength and effectiveness.
"You could see the relief in the workers' faces," Schwartz says. "They really appreciated it."
A number of sites in downtown Charlotte currently have ISA's safety system in place, including the Catalyst and the Ritz Carlton. Other high-profile sites include the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and the Echelon in Las Vegas. They are opening an office in Dubai this fall to meet the demands of their business overseas.
ISA Corp. has 42,000 square feet of space at its warehouse on Sunset Drive, but most days, it stands nearly empty. As soon as equipment arrives, it is inspected and on its way out again.
"At first, we were pushing the train out of the station," Plant remarks. "Now, we're chasing it."