Revisiting the Importance of PPE

a man wearing his PPE

Revisiting the Importance of PPE

Everyone knows they’re supposed to wear their personal protective equipment (PPE), but once they get “too comfortable” while working, it often gets pushed to the back of their mind. Let’s revisit the importance of this basic, but lifesaving, measure.

Employee Non-Compliance is Still a Major Issue

Most employers supply PPE, but many employees do not wear it. Several studies confirm non-compliance is a major issue, with percentages ranging from 85 to 98 percent.

What’s worse is employees often shun personal protective equipment more than once. Fortunately, your business can do many things to curb this alarming trend.

Why Don’t Employees Use PPE?

Employees cite many reasons for PPE noncompliance, but the most common are the equipment is too hot, does not fit properly, looks unattractive, or it was too far away from the work area.

What Can You Do To Ensure Compliance?

Your company can do many things to encourage PPE compliance beyond just throwing additional money at the problem. Changing your company’s mindset about PPE is often very helpful, too. Here are a few things to consider:

Provide Education & Training

Education and training provides supervisors, managers, and workers with the skills and knowledge they need to do their work safely and to avoid creating hazards. Education also shows when and what PPE a person needs, and how to wear, adjust, and remove equipment. It also spells out the limitations of the PPE and how to care, maintain, and identify when equipment needs to be replaced.

Training also shows people how to recognize, report and control hazards in the workplace, and it doesn’t necessarily need to occur in the classroom. On-the-job or peer-to-peer training is also very effective.

Monitor Compliance More Closely

Supervisors need to understand that PPE non-compliance is not an option. Include employee monitoring in their duties and their performance evaluations. Let them establish a system to check that employees are wearing the correct equipment for the task and hold them accountable for compliance.

Reassess Equipment

Personal protective equipment evolves as it responds to industry needs. Consequently, today’s equipment offers improved comfort, flexibility, visibility, and design than past equipment.

Equipment that fits well and has a smart design makes it more likely your employees will wear it, plus comfortable gear allows them to work with ease for increased productivity. For instance, PPE glasses now have comfortable foam seals that fit the face well and block out airborne particles. Some even have anti-fog technology to make them more usable in hot, humid environments.

Identify Problems

Check your safety log for trends and poll your employees. Communication and consultations with safety experts could offer simple solutions. Sometimes reasonable adjustments are all that’s needed.

The cost of new PPE is far less than a workers’ compensation claim and higher insurance premiums. Statistics show eye and ear injuries are very common, and not wearing hearing and eye protection, or wearing the wrong equipment, often leads to these injuries. Hearing loss from occupational noise is preventable with proper equipment.

Update PPE for prominent problems first, and then buy the best equipment to maximize safety as old items reach the end of their useful life.

Include Compliance in Employee Reviews

Telling an employee they must wear personal protective equipment is not sufficient in many cases. Employees need to understand that there will be consequences for non-compliance.

Develop an Incentive Program

Since non-compliance is such a pervasive issue, many employers now use novel approaches and offer incentives. While employees should comply, they may not unless they feel they have additional reasons to do so.

Long-term team incentives or incentive programs based on employee input appear to work best. For instance, companies such as Frito Lay, Marriott, and Exxon use a jackpot safety system with scratch cards. When an employee collects sufficient points, they can redeem them for prizes.

Of course, a good safety program comes before incentives. Some companies merge incentives into their safety program for increased effectiveness. For instance, International Paper uses completion of workplace safety observations of co-workers as an incentive to increase employee profit shares. Other employers offer incentives for ideas to improve the workplace and prevent accidents or injuries.

Using the correct PPE properly helps workers avoid injuries and illness in the workplace. Doing what you can to ensure compliance increases workplace safety, and reduces claims and your insurance costs. It’s always worth the effort.

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