Mine Safety Appliances Co., which makes respiratory and safety equipment, said in March Chief Executive John T. Ryan III will retire in 2008 and William M. Lambert will take the reins, according to the Associated Press.

Lambert, 48, was named president and chief operating officer, a newly created position, as part of a first step in the succession plan. He has worked as president of MSA North America since January of 2003. He joined the company in 1981 as a design engineer. He will now be responsible for MSA North American, MSA Europe and MSA International.

Ryan has been chairman of the board and CEO since 1991. He will remain on as a director following his retirement in mid 2008. Mine Safety Appliances said the company had record sales last year under Ryan’s watch and is now in 40 international locations. The company was co-founded by his grandfather, John T. Ryan, in 1914. His father, John T. Ryan Jr., was chairman from 1963 to 1990.

On the day of the announcement, shares of Mine Safety Appliances rose 35 cents to close at $41.48 on the New York Stock Exchange.