Personal protective equipment is one of the cornerstones of any successful safety program. It can also be one of the most challenging aspects of workplace safety because so much can go wrong, from workers who are deeply complacent with their PPE to supervisors who don’t understand their role in encouraging the use of protective equipment.
At least safety managers don’t have to solve this problem on their own. There are great online resources that present a number of ways to contend with PPE challenges. Below are four ways that EHS folks can begin tackling PPE non-compliance with the help of a digital guide.
Review best practices for PPE compliance
If you’re looking for ways to improve PPE compliance, there’s a decent chance that you’re already quite diligent about trying to get workers to wear personal protective equipment. But as this document on PPE use points out, a whopping 98% of safety folks have observed employees not wearing protective equipment when they should, and even good-intentioned EHS managers may be overlooking key issues in dealing with PPE issues.
When was the last time you reviewed the best practices for developing robust PPE compliance? If your answer to that question is measured in years rather than weeks then it’s likely time to revisit the major components that govern PPE use. Notably, thinking has come a long way in the last few years about human factors and other “invisible” influences on PPE compliance.
It’s always a good idea to review contemporary approaches and practices for dealing with PPE problems, as you may discover a new idea or solution that could help you increase the use of protective equipment in the workplace.
Share with supervisors
We know that supervisors play a make-or-break role in safety compliance. We also know that not all supervisors are alike, especially when it comes to safety. Some frontline leaders may have an intuitive grasp of the importance of PPE, or years of experience may have taught them to respect PPE’s ability to protect workers from injury.
Other supervisors are less savvy on safety issues, or may not understand how to work with employees to establish strong safety habits like wearing PPE. This can be a serious challenge because it’s often up to supervisors to enforce safety regulations—and if they don’t think wearing PPE is a big deal then their crew won’t either.
Give supervisors a copy of this guide on PPE compliance. It could offer them new perspectives, from opening their eyes as to why PPE is so essential to helping them recognize how human factors influence PPE compliance. Doing so will likely make it easier to work with supervisors in getting more workers to wear protective equipment more often.
Audit your PPE program
There’s a lot more to PPE compliance than just handing over a hard hat and saying, “Wear this or else.” Personal factors will influence how often it gets worn, from motivation and buy-in for safety to basic memory issues. And organizational factors can dramatically impact the degree to which PPE is used, including:
- appropriate PPE selection
- PPE training
- specific policies and procedures for protective equipment use
- company-led hazard identification
- supervisory and leadership support
- assessment and enforcement
- human factors
- off-the-job focus
- safety culture
One last major issue: evaluating your PPE program. Safety professionals should regularly audit the use of PPE in their organizations, using the factors noted above as broad categories to review.
This PPE guide provides an overview of the components in a PPE-related safety audit. It breaks these issues into four groupings—hazards, PPE compliance, company attitudes and actions, and personal—and then lays out some key considerations for examining how well your company performs on human factors issues at individual and organizational levels.
When auditing their PPE program, many EHS managers find it worthwhile to also take a look at things through a human factors framework. It’s a complementary piece that can shed light on PPE-specific problems as well as shed light on larger or more nebulous safety issues.
Create great PPE toolbox talks
It’s tough to keep toolbox talks engaging and informative, particularly when it comes to perennial topics like personal protective equipment. Reading material about PPE from a variety of sources can spark ideas to transform your toolbox talks or help you reinvigorate your PPE-focused safety meetings with a new approach or different content.
You could start by watching this ten-minute PPE webinar entitled: Why People Don’t Wear PPE and How to Get Them to Start. This general webinar identifies the reasons PPE fails, provides solutions to getting employees to wear it, and outlines the essential elements of a PPE program. Because PPE use is so important for workplace safety, you can literally save someone’s life by developing more dynamic safety talks on wearing safety gloves, eye protection or some other form of PPE. Whether you’re trying to get workers to properly wear their fall arrest harness or you’re simply looking to shake up your safety talks, it’s worth the effort to create top-notch toolbox meetings about PPE.