Conversation with Kevin Coplan

President /North America, Capital Safety


Congratulations on your promotion. Tell us about your background with the company.

Thank you, this is a very exciting point in my career with the company. I started working at Capital Safety when I was 19 years old, and over the years I’ve worked my way up through a wide variety of positions, with many of them focused on sales. I was named vice president of sales in 2006, and then in January of this year I was promoted to the position of president of the North American region. So I’ve amassed a great deal of institutional knowledge over the past 26 years, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to apply that experience to the continued success and growth of the geographic areas I’m responsible for.

I can’t imagine a better way of preparing yourself for this position than the process you’ve described.

You’re right, it’s been great to have the opportunity to gain so much in-depth, hands-on experience over the years, and that’s something we really value here at Capital Safety. We have a Sales Trainee Program, in fact, where we bring someone in who’s either early in their sales career of just out of college, and they spend anywhere from three to six months working in every functional area of our business. We make this investment in our employees because once they’re actually representing the company to our customers we want to make sure they’ve built the products, as well as inspected, tested, and even packaged them for shipping. We’ve had a lot of success with this program since it was launched about six years ago, and we’ve been very pleased with the members of the armed forces who’ve joined us and gone through this training program as well.

Tell us a little about the company’s global footprint and market involvement.

Capital Safety truly is a global company, with more than 20 dedicated locations around the world throughout North and South America, Europe, Slovakia, Australia, and Singapore. We employ approximately 1,200 people, and we have about 7,000 distributors worldwide. Construction is probably the largest market we serve, in addition to oil and gas, transportation, utilities, telecommunications, mining, and wind energy, of course.

When did Capital Safety get involved in the wind energy industry?

As manufacturer of the Lad-Saf system, which was designed to fit on a fixed ladder to provide continuous fall protection for climbers, Capital Safety naturally became involved in the North American wind industry quite early, basically when the first turbines were being erected in California. The product found its way into job specifications, and it really became the norm on the jobsite.

As the wind industry really began to expand in the mid 2000s, that’s when we began developing more-specialized products for wind technicians and other workers. We realized they needed harnesses and fall-protection devices that could withstand tough environments and still allow for movement in tight spaces. Working with OEMs around the world—and with the guidance of Oliver Hirschfelder, our global wind energy director—we now have a line of wind-specific products under the DB-SALA and Protecta brands. They include the Lad-Saf powered and manual climb assist devices, the FORCE2 Shockwave wind energy lanyard, and the ExoFit line of climbing harnesses, among many other devices and accessories.

We also offer training on all of these devices, which we’ll either conduct onsite or at our training centers in Canada, Mexico, or one of our two U.S. locations in Texas and Minnesota. Not only do we train on the equipment, we also address things like rescue techniques in case has fallen or become ill on the job. We’re lucky to be located here in Minnesota, which is a great wind market and gives us access to technicians who are in the field every day. That helps us with new product development, as do our activities overseas, where we have experience with devices used in offshore applications, which is just now gaining traction here in the United States. So we are committed to the wind energy industry, and we’re here to help make sure it grows and evolves in a safe and productive way.

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