Welcome back to the global Science of Safety Podcast. In part two of this series on fall protection selection, co-hosts Mark Reggers and Laurie Wells welcome Heidi Lopez-Hidalgo, a global Senior Application Engineer in the Personal Safety Division at 3M.
In this second episode, they continue the discussion on the ABCs of fall protection, like they did in the first part of this fall protection series, but this time with a focus on the DEFs (descent and rescue, education, and fall protection for tools). Tune in to learn more about helping workers stay safe while working at heights.
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™. 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:
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certify proficiency in safety and health. You should always seek the advice of a licensed or certified
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Welcome back to our previous subscribers and welcome to our new listeners. The Science of Safety
podcast is 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 am Laurie Wells, one of your co-hosts, and I have
the great pleasure to have Mark Reggers with me as well. We are occupational health and safety
professionals who like to ask questions. Why? How? And please explain. Whether you are 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 like us this is the podcast for
you. Mark, hello. How have you been since our last episode?
I have been very well, and I must say I certainly have a new appreciation for seeing anybody, workers on
roofs or in harnesses, from what we covered last time in our previous episode with Greg. It’s not just a
case of jump in a harness and up a ladder you go.
Absolutely. I think I got vertigo just thinking about the types of heights that workers have to be at. So
many things to consider to know if they would be safe and healthy, but Greg gave us a really nice tool
for remembering some of those things that you have to consider in selection criteria. So I’m going to
give you a quiz, and just see how much you remember of the A, B, C, D, E, F of fall protection.
So you gave me homework in previous episodes, and now you’re giving me a pop quiz. Were you a
teacher in a previous life? I don’t know about, and I…
Always a student.
I would’ve studied. Always a very true, very true. And I actually would’ve studied a bit more if you
gave me a bit more notice, but I was listening to Greg. So let me run through from what I recall. We have
A is for anchorage. B is the body harness. C is for connectors. D for descent and rescue. E for education, one of the critical components there that brings it all together. And then F for fall protection of tools. So
Greg did a great job last time going into the A, B, and C of the A, B, C, D, E, and F of fall protection. So,
great job. I think I passed Laurie.
I’m quite impressed. Yes, Greg did a great job, and that’s why I’m excited to introduce another one of
our 3Mers, Heidi Lopez-Hidalgo. We have the pleasure of introducing her to our listeners. Well, we got
to chat with her just a little bit, and she has some amazing unique work history and experiences. So I’m
really happy that Heidi will be here to go through the remaining letters, the D, E, and F of the A, B, C, D,
E, F of fall protection. So welcome Heidi, please tell us a little bit about yourself, introduce yourself and
your role at 3M.
Thank you for having me, Laurie and Mark. It’s a pleasure to be here. My role is a senior application
engineer in the 3M Personal Safety Division for the fall protection business. I have a global responsibility
and I’m based at the US headquarters in St. Paul Minnesota. My primary job is to help end-users figure
the correct fall protection product for their application. But additionally, while I’m doing that, I learn
how fall protection products are being used and what gaps may exist with different applications in the
industry. And then I bring that insight back to our R and D team. I work closely with our fall protection
product development team to improve our fall protection products and invent new solutions for the
industry if there isn’t one.
My background is a professional engineer in the construction and petrochemical industry. Prior to coming to 3M I worked as a structural engineer, designing and specifying fall protection systems while also getting to do a little bit of work at heights myself. So I’m familiar with really trusting your fall protection system and knowing what you’re doing while you’re at heights.
Now, Laurie and I spoke previously with Greg about the A, B, and Cs, which has so many things to think
about. If you people have listened to that other episode, we do recommend you go back and listen. But
when it comes to the selection of all these different types of equipment, which is quite a range, do they
need to be tested to any specific standards or performance requirements? Thinking about these are life-saving devices.
Great question, different countries and regions have different standards and testing requirements much
like other types of PPE. In the US for instance, there’s the American National Standards Institute, which
is called ANSI. Their set of standards is Z359. In Canada, there’s the Canada Standards Association, CSA,
and they have the Z259 set of standards. In Europe, they have the EN and CE set of standards. In Asia
there’s the JIS, GB, and KOSHA set of standards. In Australia, there’s the AS/NZS 1891 series. In Latin
America, there’s the ANSI, IRAM, Inmetro. And that’s just to name a few.
There are many standards out there globally. There are differences, but many similarities with the overall objective for the role of fall protection in these standards. But wherever the listeners are, be sure to check with your local standard and that what your equipment needs to comply with.
Well, I wish there was an easy way that you could give us to remember all of those standards, but that’s
not our focus today. We want to continue on with our easy way to remember the considerations for fall
protection. So we were up to the D. So Heidi, end the suspense here. What does the D stand for?
The D is for descent and rescue, which is often a forgotten aspect when working at heights. You think so
much about the A, Bs, and Cs, but the D is very important as well. We plan a job to be done safely, but
things can go wrong. And in an unplanned aspect, this is where a rescue plan or a way to descend a
person down from height to administer either first aid or another appropriate response is needed.
So using our previous episode examples of the workplace, like we were talking about a high-rise
construction work site, and also a manufacturing facility. Could you walk us through the different
descent and rescue considerations and potential equipment that could be suitable for those
Yeah, absolutely. Descent and rescue can be simple, or it may be quite complex. It really depends on the
situation itself. If we start with the high-rise construction scenario, a key point to assess is if the worker
falls, will anyone be able to reach them? Or will they need to be able to rescue themselves? In a high-rise scenario let’s assume for these purposes that the worker falls on the exterior of the building. So very
high on the exterior, and they’re only reachable from above. In that scenario, there are many solutions
that have rescue capabilities built into the actual fall protection product, like an overhead self-retracting
lifeline with rescue capabilities. We call these an SRL-R that can be basically switched over into a rescue
mode and manually retract up to raise the worker.
There’s also other solutions to extend a lifeline down to the worker, connect to their dorsal D-ring, and
then utilize a rescue and descent device to raise the lifeline and the worker using a mechanical
advantage. It’s very important to look at each application of where the worker could fall and consider
which descent and rescue solution is feasible for that application.
So that’s the high-rise construction example. If we look at that manufacturing scenario, what would be
different to that other environment there?
Some of the key different considerations in a manufacturing scenario is that the worker may fall and be
accessible to rescue from the ground level instead of above. In this instance, rescue may be as simple as
having a mobile elevated work platform nearby to drive over to the fallen worker, elevate, and pick
them up in that basket. Like I began with descent and rescue can be very complex, but it also can be
very simple. Just have to think about it. And the key is to consider your application, be knowledgeable of
the solutions out there, and know where to turn if you need to educate yourself in order to figure out
the best solution. This leads us into our next point, which is E for education.
I mean, just thinking about all this different equipment and complex or maybe simple rescue situations, I
mean, workers absolutely need to have a reliable level of knowledge to know what to do with all this
Absolutely. It’s incredibly important that any user of fall protection equipment has an appropriate level
of knowledge to what they are using and what they’re doing. As an example, it’s important for users to
understand fall clearance requirements and how fall protections are designed to actually extend, tear
apart, and sometimes deform in order to absorb those forces generated in a fall and safely arrest the
worker’s fall. There are also many training organizations in most countries to assess workplaces. As an
example, 3M has many training and educational resources to help workplaces advance their knowledge
of fall protection.
In addition, in many countries, 3M also offers formal courses in our well-equipped training centers. I will caution you though, please check with your local country 3M representatives if this is offered in your specific area of the world.
Well, we’re all human. And there is a saying that if you don’t use it, you lose it. And with these
perishable skills, how often should training be repeated? What do you recommend?
It’s a really great question, Laurie. And one that we do get asked quite frequently. The frequency of
refresher training should be evaluated on a usage basis, but also considered if the user is using new
equipment they are unfamiliar with, or if they have a new application that they’re working with. Typical
recommendations is to have a refresher training not less than yearly, and to always stop and retrain if
the user did something incorrectly, if they’re using new equipment, or if the new application is
presented that they need to be familiar with.
All right, you’ve taken us up to the F of the A, B, C, D, E, F. And I think even I can remember this one. F
would be for fall protection for tools. Am I right?
Yes. Correct. F is fall protection for tools. So these are systems that anchor and arrest dropped objects
on the job so they don’t hit any workers or any bystanders below. In the US for example, OSHA reports
over 42,000 struck by an object recordable injuries or fatalities annually. Other regions across the globe
report very similar alarming numbers. Objects falling from a height pose a very high safety risk to the
people below. Fall protection for tools is a product portfolio made up of similar to fall protection with
categories of anchorages to the object, connectors, and body support attachment points to the worker.
And these are some scary figures, but it does make total sense that we don’t want to be dropping tools
or other items onto those underneath and cause some serious injuries if not controlled or not planned
for. But one final question before we wrap up, are there any general maintenance or service
considerations when it comes to fall protection equipment?
Yes, absolutely, Mark. You asked a big question there as each type of equipment has its own
requirement based on the manufacturer recommendations and standard requirements. Our products
are required to be inspected before each use by the user and also by a competent person at intervals
outlined in the user instructions. If any product fails an inspection it needs to be immediately removed
from service and either sent to a 3M or authorized service center for repair if it is offered for that
specific product or discarded.
As a general rule of practice, soft goods such as harnesses should be kept out of direct sunlight, kept
away from chemical exposure, and can be cleaned per the manufacturer’s instructions. Hard goods such
as SRLs should be stored away from environmental elements and should be cleaned if they come into
contact with dirt, dust, debris. Some SRLs can be serviced by our authorized service centers or 3M to
keep them in good working condition and replace any worn components. And then engineered systems
are typically permanently installed and left in place, which can subject them to a lot of environmental
elements. These systems should be regularly inspected for signs of corrosion and deterioration.
Excellent, Heidi. Yeah, with the workplace relying on this potentially life-saving equipment, it is really
important that it’s ready to function as it’s designed and to be used in that manner. Well, Heidi, it’s been
delightful to hear and learn from you. I really appreciate the time you shared with us today and all your
knowledge and experience with our listeners. I’m sure that they really appreciate it, and so thank you so
Thank you to both of you for the invitation. This was my pleasure to give a high-level overview of some
of the fall protection basics. My one piece of advice that I’ll leave listeners with comes from my
background in an end-user role prior to coming to 3M as an application engineer. When I started
working on the fall protection manufacturer side, I quickly realized there were many products and
solutions that I never knew existed. And many would’ve been solutions that I designed for in the past
and would’ve been much simpler. Whenever you’re figuring fall protection for a new application
remember to research around a bit. Chances are others have had the same application and there may
be more solutions out there for you to utilize, and some may be simpler than what you had in mind.
Thank you all for listening today.
Thank you so much, Heidi, for sharing your experience. And that actually wraps up another exciting
episode. I know I’ve learned quite a bit around fall protection. Very interesting indeed, and definitely
scratched my health and safety nerd itch there.
Well, Mark, I’m sorry to say we have to say goodbye once again. But keep your ears to the ground and
listen for the news about our next episode.
Thanks for listening everyone. You can listen, subscribe to, and share this podcast through Apple
Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, and most major podcast apps and platforms. If you have questions,
topic suggestions, or you’d 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 visit our website at mmm.com.
This year, we are celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the first NIOSH-approved 3M filtering face-piece
respirator and the 3M EAR classic ear plug. To all of our customers who have trusted the 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. Thanks for listening and have a safe day. Stay safe out there, Mark.
Stay healthy, Laurie. Thanks everyone. Bye.