In the first entry of our new “Meet the Expert” series, we introduce the man at the forefront of the 3M Health & Safety Helpline, Pete Hilton…
Which area of 3M Personal Safety are you part of?
I am aligned to the 3M Personal Safety Division in Manchester, managing some of our customer accounts and operating the Health & Safety Helpline. I also look after the Safety Services operation, organising fit testing & training workshops for customers and giving advice to help them comply with the legislative requirements.
How long have you been with 3M Personal Safety?
I moved to the Personal Safety Division in 1995 from the Tapes & Adhesives business to be part of the customer service team. I took over responsibility for the Helpline in late 1998, so have been operating it for 16 years.
What does being on the Helpline involve?
Typically, I field questions relating to product selection; ensuring customers select appropriate PPE for their applications, through to questions about product standards and part numbers. The calls vary widely from day to day and I never know what the next call might bring up. One minute I might be talking to a DIYer with no experience of PPE and guiding them through the range of product types and capabilities and what they need to be aware of to ensure that they buy the most appropriate PPE for their task. At the other end of the scale, I can be talking to SHE officers at large multi-national companies looking for guidance on selection of products for highly dangerous operations involving toxic chemicals.
“I never know what the next call might bring up”
Who typically gets in touch with you? Is it end users or businesses?
I get a very broad range of customers calling the helpline for advice. In the past I have advised a high profile television news reader on the selection of respiratory protection when he’s cycling round London and a farmer in the Australian outback, who had stayed up all night to contact the UK for advice about how to protect himself from avian flu. The bulk of the calls, however, come from industrial clients across a raft of business sectors from metal fabrication, pharmaceutical, oil & gas, construction to the emergency services.
What are the typical types of questions you get asked?
With such a broad portfolio of products it’s difficult to pick a ‘typical’ sort of question. Broadly speaking, the most common types of questions tend to relate to selection of appropriate PPE for a task or checking whether a particular product that has been provided meets a specified set of standards or capabilities. I am regularly asked to confirm whether a particular product, generally respirator filters, are capable of dealing with a given substance. This will depend on a number of factors including the airborne concentration of the contaminant. To help customers with filter selection we have developed software that is freely available on our website. http://bit.ly/1oWHH9z
What’s the most unusual/bizarre question you’ve been asked?
In the middle of the SARS scare some years ago, I took a call from a very worried member of the public. I was somewhat surprised when she explained that she was looking for respiratory protection for her children’s rabbits. It became clear, as the call progressed, that she was wasn’t too worried about the children contracting SARS but it was important to make sure the rabbits were safe! I had to let her down softly as we can’t supply respirators for rabbits, well not yet.
What are your hobbies/interests in your spare time?
For many years I have been a keen photographer & have been published a few times mainly in aviation related magazines. I have taken this interest in flying further recently and will be taking a flying lesson in an L-29 Delfin jet trainer soon, which I suspect will be somewhat different to the Cessna 152 I have previously flown!
If you have a question you would like to ask 3M, call the 3M Health and Safety Helpline on 0870 60 800 60 (UK) or 1 800 320 500 (Ireland), open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm.