Workplace Material Handling & Safety Interview with Michel Goulet, Professional Division National Sales Manager for Petzl America

Petzl has an interesting origin story – a founder whose love of exploring caves caused him to develop rope ascenders and hands-free lighting. Can you tell me how Petzl came to be?

Fernand Petzl is the inspiration behind Petzl. He loved tinkering and started designing and manufacturing tools to help explorers descend and climb. Soon afterwards, the company began manufacturing headlamps and recreational climbing equipment for the European mountaineering and canyoneering communities. Two big steps taken by Paul Petzl, Fernand’s son, was to commercialize the company in the late eighties, and offer a full range of professional work-at-height, rope access and rescue equipment beginning in the late nineties.

In terms of head protection, workers’ heads can potentially be exposed to lots of different hazards: falling objects, molten metal splashes, excessive heat, electrical hazards. How do companies figure out what helmets are best for their workers?

Employees must recognize that under OSHA regulations, they have a duty to protect employees from any real or potential hazards that may exist on their worksites. Most of these regulations rely on consensus standards, which define testing methods and performance requirements of PPE like the ANSI Z89.1 helmet standard, which helps manufacturers design and certify equipment, and also helps employers select the correct PPE. This standard includes top and side blunt impact protection, sharp object penetration protection, protection against contact with electrical charges and other potential hazards.

Heads come in all different sizes. How can helmets fit securely on people in a workforce that may require different sizes?

Petzl offers a patented CENTERFIT feature, which allows the head to be centered in the helmet as opposed to having a nape adjuster, which pushes the head forward in the helmet. The helmet is fitted using two wheels on each side of the helmet, which adjusts both front and rear strap, inward and outward. Along with a four-point chin strap, the helmet is comfortable to wear and can be properly secured onto the head.

Petzl offers a product called an ASAP LOCK – a mobile fall arrester. During what kind of activity would this be useful and how does it work?

The ASAP LOCK mobile fall arrester is designed to be used with a vertical lifeline, shock absorber and compatible connectors to keep individuals who work-at-height protected from a fall. In case of a slip or fall, the ASAP locks onto the rope arresting the user. The ASAP’SORBER provides energy absorption and limits impact forces on the system and worker accordingly to the user’s weight and fall distance. The ASAP LOCK wheel moves up and down the rope without manual manipulation. Anytime workers are working on swing stages, being suspended by a Rope Descent System, climbing vertical structures or unprotected long ladder ways, the use of an ASAP vertical lifeline system is required for redundancy and back-up.

Also in Petzl’s fall protection portfolio is a rope descending device called the I’D (stands for: Industrial Descender) used for both worker positioning and rescue. Why does this self-braking descender have an anti-panic function? Is user error a factor in many workplace accidents?

Misuse of devices can be an important contributing factor when accidents occur on worksites. However, other factors can also influence the proper performance of descenders like the I’D. If the user installs the rope into the I’D incorrectly, an anti-error catch that will make the device inoperable. Another safety feature is the anti-panic brake.  This stops the descent if the I’D’s release handle is pulled too far back. The handle can be pulled too far by either the user, who panics during an uncontrolled descent, or by unintended contact with another piece of equipment that could push on the handle. The anti-panic brake feature of the I’D takes care of both of those undesired possibilities.

Petzl Solutions know-how is disseminated by Petzl Technical Institutes and Petzl Technical Partners. How does that work?

The Petzl Technical Institute is a place for safety managers, work-at-height, rope access and rescue specialists to share ideas, discuss developing trends and learn best practices. We host many classes, conferences and symposiums there. One of its foundational purposes is to encourage discussion and experimentation. Its goal is to unite experience, knowledge and skill under one roof in order to invent and develop recreational and professional solutions for tomorrow.