Each year, personal protective equipment (PPE) helps keep millions of employees safe at work. From goggles to steel-toe boots, PPE is a vital part of any safety plan. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the use of PPE to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not effective. However, enforcing its use and addressing worker objections can often be a challenge for employers. Here are five tips to help overcome these obstacles and create a safer workplace:
Lead by Actions
One of the best ways to motivate employees is to lead by example. If you aren’t willing to use personal protective equipment while on the job than you can’t expect your employees to use it either. It’s difficult to trust someone who says one thing but does another. So put on that hard hat and demonstrate the importance of safety in the workplace.
Educate Employees on the Importance of PPE
When employees know the reasoning behind a certain policy, they are much more likely to adhere to it. Rather than just handing workers a face mask and telling them to put it on, let your employees know why they need to use each specific type of PPE for their job. Inform them of the dangers of not using it, and emphasize the impact of PPE on worker safety and health.
Keep Open Communication
Listening to your employees can make a world of difference. Involve employees in discussions concerning what specific PPE brands, colors and models to purchase since they’ll be the ones using it during the workday. Ask employees how their PPE is working for them and what recommendations they have for the next time you purchase PPE. Address complaints promptly, and keep open communication with employees in an effort to provide the most comfortable and appealing equipment possible.
Use the Right Equipment
Use equipment that is easy to clean, maintain and replace. The easier personal protective equipment is to use the more likely employees will use it. Since cleaning and maintaining is all part of PPE use, choose equipment that makes these aspects of its use as simple as possible. You can also eliminate the need for cleaning and maintenance by purchasing disposable equipment. Similarly, nondisposable equipment should be easy to replace. If you run out of PPE and it’s not easily replaceable you lose valuable production time searching for new equipment.
Over time people have a tendency to become complacent when they are exposed to the same policy or procedure repeatedly. If you don’t enforce your PPE policies each and every day employees may begin to use their equipment improperly, or even forgo its use altogether. Make sure to have a written PPE policy in place and to check in on employees to ensure they are using their PPE properly and consistently. It only takes one time of not using PPE for an injury or fatality to occur.
PPE Myths Debunked
When it comes to personal protective equipment in the workplace there can be a lot of confusion. How much PPE do I really need for a certain job? What type of gloves should I use? Do I really need to clean my personal protective equipment after I use it?
The world of safety management can be confusing, so let’s debunk eight common misconceptions about personal protective equipment.
MYTH #1: “If my staff doesn’t want to wear PPE, I can’t make them.”
TRUTH: If PPE has been deemed necessary by employers and/or safety managers, then it is not optional and employers have every right to require its use.
MYTH #2: “The more PPE I wear the better.”
TRUTH: Both overprotection and underprotection can be equally dangerous, according to the Kimberly-Clark Professional: Exceptional Workplaces website. Overprotection may lead to heat stress caused by wearing too many layers. Underprotection may lead to chronic health problems after years of exposure to certain hazardous substances. The goal is to find PPE that offers the best protection against workplace hazards, while at the same time providing the greatest comfort to the wearer.
MYTH #3: “Gloves are slippery, and don’t allow me to get a good hold on objects.”
TRUTH: You can find gloves that have a textured finish on the fingertips, making it easier to grasp small and lightweight objects such as test tubes and glassware. Ansel, a leading manufacturer of industrial hand protection, explains that for larger, heavier objects gloves are available that incorporate a roughened surface which directs fluids away from the grip surface.
MYTH #4: “This job will only take a few minutes so I don’t need to take the time to put on PPE.”
TRUTH: It only takes a second for an accident to occur. Whether you’ll be in a hazardous area for 10 minutes or 10 hours, you need to have on all required PPE. Exceptions lead to injuries and deaths.
MYTH #5: “I can’t wear gloves, I have a latex allergy.”
TRUTH: According to glove-manufacturer Ansel, individuals with a latex allergy can switch to a synthetic alternative, such as nitrile, neoprene or vinyl gloves.
MYTH #6: “As long as I’m wearing one piece of PPE that’s good enough.”
TRUTH: You need to wear all PPE required for your job. Failure to do so can have serious ramifications, including injury and death. While working with chemicals you may be wearing goggles to protect your eyes from splashes, but if you’re not wearing gloves or a proper jacket your hands and body are susceptible to chemical burns. When deciding what types of PPE are needed for a job, employers must consider all areas of the body, from the head and face to the core and extremities.
MYTH #7: “If I’m wearing leather gloves, I won’t get cut.”
TRUTH: Despite its thickness, leather is still just skin. It can be cut just as easily as human skin, especially when it is wet. Ansel advises that if leather gloves are needed for a job, employers should issue ones with the best protection, dexterity and tactile performance based on the worker’s specific job duties. In addition, workers need to use precaution when handling sharp objects and machinery, keeping in mind that leather gloves are penetrable and can’t prevent cuts.
MYTH #8: “Cleaning and storing PPE isn’t really important.”
TRUTH: After each use, PPE must be properly cleaned and stored according to instructions. If PPE is damaged it won’t function the way it’s supposed to, leaving the worker open to injury and health hazards. Any damaged or worn-out PPE must immediately be reported to managers so it can be replaced.
Bethany Carpenter is an events & E-communications coordinator for Vivid Learning Systems, an eLearning safety solutions provider.
Republished with permission. © 2013 Vivid Learning Systems. All Rights Reserved.
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