Employers and employees know that wearing the proper protective equipment can prevent workplace accidents. But too often employees fail to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), sometimes with disastrous consequences.
Kimberly-Clark Professional, a purveyor of PPE, recently surveyed attendees at the National Safety Council Congress and unearthed some disturbing facts:
- 85% of safety professionals said that many employees ignore company protective-equipment policies.
- 66% said equipment compliance was an issue within their company.
- 40% described the issue as a major concern they were attempting to correct.
More than half said employees don’t use PPE because it’s uncomfortable or fits poorly. Another reason cited as to why employees don’t wear safety gear: a sense of invulnerability, or the unrealistic belief that “accidents won’t happen to me.”
BWC addresses the issues
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has these suggestions for ensuring that employees comply with company safety rules involving personal protective equipment:
- Provide training on how to use PPE: when it's necessary; appropriate equipment for each job; how to properly wear and adjust PPE; proper care, maintenance and disposal of equipment; and PPE’s safety limitations.
- Have employees demonstrate their understanding of the training and their ability to properly wear and use PPE before they are allowed to perform any work requiring the equipment.
- Require updated safety training whenever employees change positions, again requiring them to demonstrate proficiency in wearing and using PPE before allowing them to perform their new jobs.
- Train supervisors on PPE’s importance. Require supervisors to look for and immediately correct equipment violations. Have them stress PPE safety in daily and weekly meetings.
Eliminate excuses for non-use
Once employers establish PPE’s importance in their employee’s minds, they should address the reasons employees fail to use it. Employers should take time to ensure employees have properly fitting PPE.
Proper fit is particularly important when it comes to eye protection. Goggles that fit poorly can allow dust, projectiles or chemicals to come in contact with employees’ eyes. Goggles should provide a tight fit around the eyes.
Hard hats should fit snugly so they do not fall off during normal workday activities. Gloves and footwear should be sized properly.
Make sure everyone closely follows all PPE manufacturers’ instructions.
The BWC emphasizes the importance of employers properly maintaining their equipment. Eye protection should be cleaned regularly to remove dirt and obstructions that could impair an employee’s field of vision. Additionally, employees should be encouraged to report any PPE concerns, including problems with fit. Employers should always seek, and use it to address problems.
Deal with attitudes, too
Employers also must address employee attitudes. Employees who feel invincible or think the next accident will happen to someone else must be trained to always wear PPE. Sadly, it may take an accident or a near-accident to convince these “supermen” that workplace hazards are their kryptonite.
In the meantime, constant reminders are the best approach. Of course, this will fall to the supervisors. They will have to be the “Lex Luthers” to the company’s “supermen.”
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) offers training classes in workplace safety for employers. Details are available online at www.ohiobwc.com/employer/programs/safety/SandHEducation.asp.
BWC courses—free to employers holding a valid workers’ comp policy—are designed to emphasize the practical applications of safety principles, development of a safety culture and the current and proposed standards for regulatory compliance, risk and BWC programs.
OSHA’s web site is www.osha.gov. The site provides links to dozens of training resources, as well as information on OSHA Training Institute programs in Cincinnati, Dayton and Springboro.
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