Conversation with Oliver Hirschfelder

Global Wind Energy Director / Capital Safety


Tell us a little about your professional background prior to joining Capital Safety earlier this year.

My most recent position was president and CEO of Hailo LLC, where I worked for approximately seven years and was responsible for the German-based company’s entry into the North-American market. Hailo’s products include ladders for applications including wind towers, cranes, shafts, and pipes, as well as fall protection systems. Before that I had worked in sales and marketing for companies such as Proctor and Gamble, van Melle Deutschland GmbH, and BIC Germany GmbH. I was a founding member of the American Wind Energy Association’s safety committee, as well as its operations and maintenance group, of which I am currently on the steering committee. So not only do I have a great deal of experience with safety and fall protection, but also how they apply specifically to the wind industry.

What drew you to this new position, and what are your responsibilities?

While Capital Safety — which is also known as DBI-SALA — has been heavily involved in the wind industry for quite some time now, they created this position in order to unify its wind-related operations both here in the United States and around the world. I felt that the skills and experience I’ve accumulated over the years put me in an ideal position to succeed in this role, serving as a bridge between the company and its customers in terms of product development.

In fact, acting as a liaison between the company and those who actually use the products it designs and manufactures is one of my primary responsibilities in this position, and something that I’m very comfortable with. I will oversee the efforts of our wind-related sales force around the world, in addition to handling marketing activities within this sector, and I will also spend a great deal of time traveling to meet with our clients, asking the technicians — who are the actual end users of our harnesses, for instance — how we could improve on the product, no matter how small their concern may be. When you take our new ExoFit NEX full-body harness into consideration, for example, the attention to detail is quite remarkable, and a great many of the improvements came about by our direct communication with safety engineers and field technicians. A one-time adjustment means that workers won’t need to adjust their harnesses throughout the day. The straps won’t budge, even with the weight of tool belts that have traditionally caused adjustments to loosen.

In addition the hardware is constructed of aluminum, reducing the overall weight of the harness, which increases comfort. The harness is constructed with Repel Technology Webbing, providing extreme durability with up to five times more abrasion resistance and water repellence than previous generations of harnesses, and the breathable padding wicks away moisture to keep the worker cool and dry. So these are just a few examples of the upgrades and improvements we’ve made as a direct result of our customers’ comments and concerns. We realize that the quickest way to arrive at the best designs for our fall safety equipment is to listen to the individuals who will be wearing it all day long, and sometimes something so small as adding a pocket for a cell phone can make all the difference between a harness you’re required to use and one that you actually want to wear.

So all a technician or safety professional needs to do is contact you if they have a suggestion, or a need for customization of any of your devices?

That’s right. I will be working with our key customers—which includes manufacturers, wind farm owners and operators, and construction and service firms—to provide fall protection solutions for all of their employees who work at heights. And this degree of customer service is well worth it for us, because the more we can keep the lines of communication open between Capital Safety and our customers, the more successful we’ll be in producing products of the highest quality that will help them to achieve their internal safety goals.

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