These days, everyone is aware of the risks that some construction and industry jobs bring with them, and much time and effort is spent on training, signposting, drawing up safety plans and equipping staff with the correct materials to perform their tasks. So why is it still a struggle to make sure some employees use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as part of their daily routine? Here, RSEA Safety, Australia’s market leader in the provision of PPE, workwear and safety equipment, explains why:
Why is PPE important?
Many workplaces carry a number of different risks and hazards, with the potential to cause harm or even death. These risks are mitigated through a hierarchy of controls, designed to protect people from various hazards, with personal protective equipment (PPE), the last line of defence when all other measures are implemented or exhausted. PPE protects workers from a number of various hazards, including:
- Eyes – from flying particles, splashes of liquid or corrosive substances;
- Head, hands and feet – from falling objects
- Hands – from sharps, burns, spikes, abrasions or hazardous chemicals;
- Skin – from abrasions or contact with hot or corrosive materials;
- Lungs – from breathing in contaminated air;
- Body – from extreme hot or cold temperatures either outside or in freezers etc.
Ways to encourage staff to wear PPE
As well as providing PPE for employees, you must also train them in how, when and why to wear or use the protective items. If you find that some employees are reluctant to wear certain PPE, make sure you find out why. Some of the most common reasons for staff not using certain PPE are:
- Employees find certain items uncomfortable. If possible, conduct trials and consult staff on which PPE to purchase. If they have been involved in the selection of the products, they are more likely to use them.
- Some PPE interferes with other items. If more than one PPE item must be worn at the same time, make sure they do not obstruct each other. Wearing a helmet should not prevent the user from wearing goggles, for instance.
- Health grounds. Other instances of people refusing to wear certain items of PPE have been recorded on the basis of health grounds, such as people who developed skin complaints from wearing impermeable gloves.
- In some instances, workers refuse to wear PPE because they have never worn it, or have worked in environments that didn’t force or encourage it. Some workers are reluctant to change their ways, particularly if they have been in environments where it was considered ‘tough’ not to wear PPE.
In such cases, the employer must try to find acceptable alternative PPE equipment, or allocate the worker different tasks that do not require the use of PPE.
5 steps to ensure that PPE is worn when necessary
- Make sure that you consult your employees before introducing PPE. The people who perform the relevant tasks are best placed to see if the equipment will fit the requirements of the job.
- Signpost which areas or activities require the use of certain items of PPE clearly. You can purchase ready-made signs with texts like “hard hats must be worn in this area”. The information should also be provided in handbooks or operating manuals.
- Adopt a policy that clearly states when and where PPE use is required. You can include disciplinary actions for staff who do not use PPE as directed or who lose or inadequately maintain their equipment.
- Give supervisors training in the selection and use of PPE and make sure that they are aware that they have direct responsibility for ensuring that company policy is complied with.
- Ensure that PPE is stored in a location that is accessible at all times while employees are on duty, so there can be no reason for them not to wear or use the PPE provided. Make sure someone is responsible for regular checks to ensure that PPE is well maintained, clean and ready for use. Consider PPE vending machines onsite which can increase compliance while also lower cost of use.
Since opening in 1993, RSEA has grown to become Australian’s market leader in the sale and hire of Workwear, PPE and Safety Equipment. In fact, it is now the largest independent safety business in Australia with a wide range of quality Australian Workwear and Safety Equipment along with globally recognised brands in all areas of safety. As well as an easily accessed national store footprint, RSEA Safety also have onsite Safety Specialists who can assist with the selection and purchasing of safety items.