In this episode of the global Science of Safety Podcast, co-hosts Mark Reggers and Laurie Wells, along with special guest Greg Peterson, a Specialist Application Engineer with 3M Australia, discuss working at heights and the selection of fall protection equipment. This is the first episode of a two-part series on fall protection selection.
In this first part, tune in to learn more about how the hierarchy of controls is used in assessing the hazards and risks of situations that involve heights, and the ABCs (anchorage, body support, connectors) of fall protection.
This global podcast series provides another educational tool that can help increase your knowledge and is something that you can share with others in your organization and with your friends. The goal is to help provide a global perspective and foundation for those of you who are new to workplace health and safety and personal protective equipment (PPE) while also providing information for more experienced professionals who handle complex health and safety challenges.
You can listen, subscribe to, and share this podcast through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and most major podcast apps and platforms.
If you have any questions or topic suggestions, you can get in contact with this podcast by contacting your local 3M office or visiting our worker health and safety website at 3M.com. If you’d like some assistance in your workplace when it comes to the appropriate selection, use, and maintenance of PPE please contact us today.
This year the Personal Safety Division is also celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the first U.S. Government-approved 3M filtering facepiece respirator (a precursor to what is now known as the N95), and the 3M™ E-A-R™ Classic™ Earplug. To all of our customers who have trusted 3M brand PPE between then and now, thank you.
Around the world, we aim to help everyone get the job done safely today, tomorrow and in the future.
Below is the full transcript of the podcast:
The 3M Science of Safety podcast is a free publication. The information presented in this podcast is
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certify proficiency and safety and health. You should always seek the advice of a licensed or certified
professional in relation to your specific work or task. Always consult the user instructions for any
personal protective equipment you are using, and follow local laws and regulations.
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Welcome back to all our previous subscribers and new listeners. The Science of Safety podcast are
presented by the 3M Personal Safety Division. This is a podcast that is curious about the science and
systems behind workplace health and safety, with a focus on personal protective equipment, or PPE,
used to help keep workers healthy and safe.
I’m Mark Reggers, one of your co-hosts, with the fantastic Laurie Wells with me. We’re your
occupational health and safety professionals who like to ask the questions why, how, and please explain.
Whether you’re a safety professional, occupational or industrial hygienist, someone with any level of
worker health and safety responsibility in your workplace, a user of PPE or a health and safety nerd,
then this is the podcast for you. Laurie, how are you going today?
Oh, it’s going great, Mark. Good to hear your voice.
You too. But I have a quick question to start off today. How do you go with high heights?
Hmm. Well, I guess I’m going pretty good. I mean, after all, I live in the Mile High City.
That you do, that you do. The reason I actually ask.
Yeah, the reason I actually ask is that this week, being the health and safety nerd that I am, I saw some
workers on top of a building roof. Now I think they’re about to go over the edge and got me thinking, as
it want to do. Look, I don’t think I’m scared of heights, but do have a healthy respect for gravity, which I
think most people probably do as well.
But it got me thinking, what would be involved for these workplaces, and what are those
processes for assessing and selecting controls when it comes to full protection working heights and that
equipment as part of that control strategy. What’s involved there?
Yeah, I can imagine there would be a lot of things to consider. I mean, these are life-saving pieces of
personal protective equipment after all. We’ve talked about respiratory and we’ve talked about hearing
protector devices in previous episodes, so I’m really excited to learn more about the selection of PPE
and some of the things that you have to consider. It’s really out of my area of expertise.
And so luckily we’re very happy to have a guest join us, another one of our 3M’ers. And so I have
the pleasure to introduce to you all a person with a great deal of experience at working at heights and
selecting fall protection equipment. Please, to our listeners, welcome Gregg Peterson.
Hello, Laurie and Mark. It’s a pleasure to be here and to help you both with a greater understanding
around the selection for protection equipment for working at heights.
Now, Gregg, can you tell us a little bit more about your role at 3M and where you’re actually based?
Yes, Mark. I’m a specialist application engineer. Who’s responsible for the complete range of fall
protection products for Australia and New Zealand. My role is to help designers and users of 3M fall
protection products select the correct product for their application, and to have the tools and
knowledge to use the products correctly as intended by 3M.
This is my 23rd year as a fall protection engineer with 3M. Before joining 3M, I was a project
engineer on construction sites throughout Sydney for more than 10 years. I’m also involved with the
Working in heights Association and Standards Australia.
Well, the first question that comes to my mind actually is how high does an employee need to be off the
ground to be considered working at heights, or maybe even need to think about wearing a harness?
That’s a great question. Laurie. What constitutes working at heights is determined by local regulations.
Standards in different countries or regions of the world have different requirements. Sometimes the
requirements can vary within a country between different states or territories.
Here in Australia, for example, it depends on which state or territory you are performing the
work, or which company, or even which site location the work is being performed. In Australia, most of
the states and territory will say that if there’s a risk of a fall from one level to another that is likely to
cause harm, you are working at height. You also need to remember that at ground level you may also be
working at height if you’re near an edge of an open pit or trench. Once again, workplaces need to ensure
that they are consulting the regulations specific to their location.
Now I’m a simple fellow as you know, Gregg, so falling from one level to another, could that be changing
a light bulb in an office as an example? Is that working in heights?
For any working at heights activity, such as changing a light globe or a light bulb, workplaces need to
conduct a risk assessment and apply the hierarchy of controls.
Very much like what we discussed for respiratory protection in hearing protection in previous episodes.
Glad to know it continues on for fall protection as well.
Absolutely, Mark. The hierarchy of control for fall protection may vary slightly with different countries.
However, the basic principles are the same. So let’s work through the changing the light bulb scenario.
Once the level of hazard and risk is identified, a system of control measures is then
implemented in order to eliminate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level. This is known as the
hierarchy of control. There are many different types of controls that can be considered, including
elimination, substitution, isolation, engineering controls, administration controls, and finally PPE.
With regards to changing the light bulb scenario we can apply the hierarchy of control. If we first
look at elimination, we could use a bulb changing pole that’s adjustable in length to suit our application.
This would allow the bulb to be changed while the person is standing on the ground. If we then
considered substitution, we could use a step ladder that had a working platform or an elevated work
platform, an EWP. Therefore removing the risk of a fall if the person was standing on a normal
stepladder that didn’t provide this type of protection.
Isolation, the light bulb could be replaced from an area above, therefore providing a safe work
location with a fixed platform and handrails. Engineering control, we could build a purpose-built mobile
stair and platform that could provide safe access. Administration controls, introduce safe work practices
that reduce the risk, such as providing user training and procedures. And finally PPE, personal protection
equipment. Using a harness and a shock absorbing lanyard, for example, could protect the worker.
Well, from what you described, there are many components and a lot of responsibilities that have to be
considered for an employee and a particular application. How do you remember all that? Is there an
easy way that our listeners might be able to remember those elements that you just described?
Absolutely, Laurie. We like to keep it simple where possible. So there are elements of product groups
that 3M references, and these are known as the As, the Bs, the Cs, the Ds, the Es and Fs of fall
protection. We recommend that these should be applied to any working at height activity to help ensure
all elements have been considered.
As I said, we have the A. A stands for anchorage, a secure point of attachment. B, body support,
or as we call it, a harness. C for connectors, shock absorbing lanyards or self-retracting lifelines. D is for
descent and rescue devices. And this is a device used to raise or lower a suspended or injured worker. E
for education. It’s essential that the correct equipment is selected and used correctly. And finally, F. Fall
for protection for tools. This helps make the work environment safer and more productive.
Yes, much simpler. A, B, C, D, E, F gives us a great tool to remember those different considerations. Now
I think it might be helpful if we could work through a couple different scenarios in the workplace so that
we could really get a concrete example of how the A, B, C, D, E, F of fall protection are applied in these
particular situations. What do you think? Can you give us a particular example?
Absolutely, we can work through that. So let’s consider two examples then, high-rise construction and a
manufacturing site, which are common that we see.
We start with A, A’s for anchorage as I said. An anchorage provides a secure point of
attachment. This is what the connector will attach to. There’s many considerations. A few would be the
intended purpose of the anchorage, the strength requirement or capacity, the location or position of the
anchorage, and the structure that the anchorage is being installed or attached to. This is sometimes
overlooked. The structure must also be capable of supporting the same capacity as the anchor.
A typical scenario in a construction environment would be a temporary anchor sling that would
be wrapped around a structural beam. However, for a manufacturing site this may be a permanent
anchor that’s been installed.
When I think to those workers I saw on that roof, they were wearing harnesses. Are there different
types of harnesses that these different workplace and environments, as you described there with the
different anchors, that they should be considering or working through to select an appropriate one?
Certainly, Mark. The B, so the B of our A, B, C, D, and E, F is body support. This is the user’s harness. 3M
designs and manufactures many different types of harnesses that are specific to working at heights
activities or a specific application.
There are many considerations when selecting the type of full body harness. A few would be the
work that you performed, duration of time wearing a harness, the working environment, the
attachment points required on the harness, and the gender.
Wow, I had no idea there were so many things to consider just when thinking about the body harness.
What about the C, what does the C stand for?
Laurie, C’s for connectors. This is the connection between the anchorage, the A, and the user’s full body
harness, the B. We have two basic types of connectors, shock absorbing lanyards or restraint lanyards,
and also self-retracting lifelines.
Again, like the B of body support, there are many considerations when selecting connectors.
This applies to both shock absorbing lanyards and self-retracting lifelines. Again, we should look at the
work to be performed, the length of the connector. We also need to consider material construction, the
type of end connector, the capacity. And again, the anchor location can determine what type of
connector we must use.
Thinking back to those examples, your construction and also that manufacturing scenario that you painted, where does the person even start when it comes to thinking through what might be
appropriate for those particular workplaces?
Where to start or the first thing to consider is the application. What is the working at height activity?
This will take into consideration some of the points I’ve already mentioned. Anchorage location, work to
be performed, and the environment are some of the key considerations to consider. Workplaces could also consider compatibility of hardware and connectors. Specific site requirements, such as the use of a triple action carabiner.
Much like other PPE, there’s so many things for workplaces to think about. And we’ve only just
scratched the surface of hitting the A, B, C of the A, B, C, D, and F Laurie. Were you aware there’s so
much to this?
Absolutely not. I’m just astounded. I was aware of some of the things, obviously, but not to the depth
that Gregg has explained so well. And there’s so much that we have to cover still to go. Luckily we have
another episode all queued up and designed so that we can go into more depth with the D, E and F of
the A, B, C, D, E, F.
Gregg, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you for sharing with us about your extended
experience and your time today. You have a wealth of knowledge and experience we’re really grateful
that you were able to come and share with us.
Thank you, Laurie and Mark, for the opportunity to provide some of the knowledge that I’ve learned
over my many years of practical experience of working at heights.
One of my key roles as a specialist application engineer for 3M is education. If I could close off
by saying that people can find their region’s 3M website information on our fall protection range of
products. Look for the product instruction, the use manual, or as we call it, the IFU. That will provide
specific information on each of these products.
I’m already looking forward to the next episode. I’m left in suspense to delve into the D, E and F, so keep
your ears peeled everyone for our next episode.
Well, thanks for listening, everyone. You can listen, subscribe to and share this podcast through
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, and most major podcast apps and platforms. If you have any
questions, topic suggestions, or like some assistance in your workplace when it comes to the
appropriate selection, use and maintenance of PPE, you can get in contact with this podcast by
contacting your local 3M office or visiting our website. mmm.com.
This year we are celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the first NIOSH-approved 3M filtering
facepiece respirator, and the 3M E-A-R Classic Earplug. To all of our customers who have trusted 3M
branded PPE between then and now, we thank you.
Around the world we aim to help everyone get the job done safely today, tomorrow, and in the
future. Thanks for listening and have a safe day. Stay healthy, Laurie.
Stay safe and sound, Mark.
Thanks everyone. Bye.