We all make mistakes
By Jeff Thorne
There is no guarantee that providing workers with top-quality personal protective equipment will ensure that it is properly used and worn, when and where it is required. In the past, the look and style of the equipment outweighed the form, function and intended use of the equipment. If it looked good, workers were more apt to wear it. Manufacturers over the years have spent time to see that personal protective equipment now looks good, works well and assists the worker in finishing the day safely.
By Jeff Thorne
In my career, failure to wear required P.P.E. is something that has been observed on a regular basis and has been cited as one of the top workplace safety issues. There can be many reasons for non-compliance, but let’s keep things simple. We all make mistakes. You may have a top-notch personal protective equipment program where the P.P.E. provided protects the worker from the hazard. The worker has been trained on the limitations, selection, fit, and use of the P.P.E., and they may personally identify with the need for the P.P.E. Workers may have the best of intentions but when the heat is on, frustrations exist, fatigue factors are at play or complacency sets in, we make errors, take short cuts, or we may simply forget to put our P.P.E. on.
So how do we get workers to wear P.P.E.?
If your organization requires personal protective equipment, you need a comprehensive P.P.E. program. This starts with hazard identification. Hazards need to be correctly identified and assessed, and factors that may cause workers (rushing, complacency, fatigue etc.) to remove their personal protective equipment need to be identified. Next is hazard control. Prior to implementing P.P.E., everything reasonable must be done to eliminate or control the identified hazard at the source, as personal protective equipment is typically seen as the last option.
Training is a key factor in getting workers to wear their P.P.E. but the training can’t just focus on the equipment itself. Training must be provided on why P.P.E. is required, and the training must extend beyond regulatory compliance factors. Training needs to focus on the hazards and identified risk potential, the fact that it is a condition of employment to use and wear it and it should focus on the personal reasons for wearing it. These reasons may include being able to maintain the same quality of life to be there for your family and your co-workers.
Training must also be provided in what the worker is required to wear, and for what type of tasks. It must also include how to correctly wear the P.P.E. Discussions during training must be centered on inspection of the equipment, how to put it on and how to take if off, as well as requirements for storage and cleaning. The training should include theory and hands-on – this will yield the best training results. It is important for workers to be part of the equipment selection process. Their input can be invaluable when it comes to choosing the correct equipment.
Organizations must have set standards for P.P.E. use, outlining responsibilities and accountabilities for those required to use and wear it. Managers and supervisors play a key role. They must support the standards, set daily examples, and constantly communicate and reinforce the need for personal protective equipment. They must also evaluate standards through formalized auditing and walkthroughs. Daily and weekly audits provide management the opportunity to evaluate conformance to standards. Audits will identify non-compliance issues requiring coaching and enforcement, and they are a great opportunity to commend positive behaviour and performance.
Finally, a P.P.E program must be constantly evaluated to account for changes to products or material, process, equipment and machinery, or anything that may have an effect on P.P.E.
Educated, trained workers with the best of intentions will make mistakes as a result of personal factors that result in non-compliance and potential injury. Having a comprehensive P.P.E. program that accounts for hazard identification and control, effective and specific training, with written standards that are supported by management, will get you moving in the right direction.