Originally published on 15th March 2018

Updated 13th November 2019


5 Ways to Motivate Your Team to Wear PPE

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Why Is PPE Important?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital to the safety of employees working in hazardous areas on-site. From high-visibility jackets and safety gloves to ear and head protection, PPE provides a crucial last line of defence against injury.

According to HSE statistics, there were an estimated 555,000 non-fatal injuries to UK workers reported in 2017/18. Findings showed that 31% of these were due to slips, trips or falls, 21% to manual handling and lifting, 10% to being struck by an object and 7% to falling from heights.

All of these accidents have the potential to be fatal, yet many can be avoided or the risk reduced if relevant health and safety laws and guidance are adhered to. These statistics illustrate why PPE is so important.

However, for a number of different reasons, many workers are reluctant to use the correct PPE. Some may even refuse to wear it at all. This situation is undoubtedly a stressful one for those trying to enforce compliance, so we’ve compiled the top five ways that you can motivate workers to wear the correct PPE.

1. Create a Company Culture of Safety

Creating a company culture in which the health and safety of all employees is a priority will instil an internal motivation in workers to wear PPE. This is much more effective and less time-consuming in the long run, than having to rely on disciplinary action to enforce workers to wear PPE when they should.

There are many ways to ensure this message is delivered on a daily basis and, therefore, becomes embedded in the working culture. If your team understands why they need PPE, they will be more accepting of your commitment to staying on top of health and safety requirements. To demonstrate that worker safety is of paramount importance, ask your workers for feedback on a regular basis. They may have some great ideas on how everyone can work together to create a safer environment. Feedback can be gathered formally or informally, for example, through meetings (during which you may also provide some form of reward for their hard work) or through employee surveys. It’s important to remember and communicate that it is not just the managers who are responsible for safety at work but all employees.

Ensuring that safety signs are up to date and located in a sensible place is a good way of showing that you’re aware of workplace risks, and that you are continually monitoring them. Don’t assume your team knows what PPE is, why it is important and when to wear it. When workers routinely see managers and supervisors taking active steps to make the work environment safer, they are more likely to commit to company goals and strive to achieve them. Show workers that your efforts are genuine, and their loyalty, drive and commitment will increase.

2. Conduct a Hazard Analysis

If a worker refuses to wear PPE, this is often because they do not fully understand what PPE is and the risks of not wearing it. There is unlikely to be the same level of requirement for PPE across an entire workplace, and each work area will have its own PPE requirements. You may have been confronted with questions such as “Why should I wear my hard hat if they aren’t?” or “Why do we need PPE?” These demands can be addressed by carrying out a comprehensive hazard analysis of the site to assess precisely what is required of each worker. Part of this should involve reviewing past incident and first aid reports to identify problems that have previously occurred and to understand why.

Once a hazard analysis has been carried out, safety procedures will need to be revised. A senior member of staff should call a meeting to communicate the new PPE requirements to all workers. It is important to clarify what specific PPE each person or team should wear, when they should wear it and which hazards the PPE protects against.

Your workers should understand that you are not enforcing PPE simply to tick a compliance box or to save money — you’re doing it to improve their safety and wellbeing.

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3. Carry Out Regular PPE Training

Workers are less likely to be committed to PPE compliance if they do not understand why it is important to wear suitable PPE and how to use it properly.

Using the findings from your hazard analysis, provide training for your employees on the newly revised safety procedures. This will involve regular training on the correct usage of PPE, tailored to each working area and for each task that must be carried out. The outcome of these sessions can be monitored to ensure that everyone is maximising the impact of the safety equipment they use.

Part of these training sessions should also focus on the reasons why PPE is so important. Often, workers need a reminder of the potential consequences of not following the rules. Real-life stories and videos of accidents or near-misses are an effective way to drive the message home and help workers appreciate why they should wear PPE. Refer back to your accident reports and use examples of where an injury has directly resulted from the incorrect use of PPE. Instead of saying, “If you don’t do this, this COULD happen…” you can say, “This HAS happened and could happen again…” You could also use wider statistics from your industry to emphasise the same point.

Your team needs to fully understand the dangers surrounding the work they’re doing and the machinery they’re using, and that if PPE is not worn or not used in the correct way, there can be devastating consequences. Workers should also be up to speed on how to correctly look after and store their equipment, and how to inspect PPE for wear and tear and malfunctions.

PPE training and toolbox talks should be delivered regularly or each time your safety policy is updated. Every new employee must receive full training before they start work. Workers who are new to the role may not even know what personal protective equipment is. Make no assumptions and ensure your training covers all bases.

4. Choose the Right PPE

“It’s getting in the way!”

“It keeps falling off!”

“It’s digging in!”

“It’s fogging up!”

Do any of these complaints sound familiar?

You have a range of options when it comes to selecting your PPE, so how can you be sure you’re making the right decision for your workplace and your employees? Involving workers in the decision-making process is a great way to make sure you choose the most appropriate PPE. After all, they’re the ones who have to use it! If workers have had a say in choosing their PPE, they are less likely to complain about it. 

Show your team the products that you’re considering. Gather a few samples and invite workers to try out the new items while carrying out their day-to-day tasks. They may have valuable input in terms of fit, suitability and comfort that can instruct your future PPE buying choices. It can be particularly challenging to find the correct fit for female employees, so the best way to ensure your female workers are comfortable and safe in their PPE is to discuss the issue with them and come up with solutions together.

Taking the time to listen and empathise with your team’s issues surrounding PPE and demonstrating your commitment to accommodating their preferences will encourage them to wear the equipment you provide without complaint.

You should also discuss your requirements and challenges with your PPE supplier. Explain why you need PPE, and how and where it will be used. Your supplier can advise you on what items are available and guide you towards suitable equipment. Find products with the right fit and the necessary safety features to ensure your team have the PPE they need.

5. Enforce Your Policy

All of these efforts need to be backed up with proper encouragement and enforcement by all supervisors and managers. If some workers refuse to wear PPE yet they receive no warning from a superior, the number of offenders will continue to grow.

You could set up a reward scheme to acknowledge the commitment of workers who are consistently following PPE procedure. This kind of positive reinforcement will encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

There may still be some who refuse to wear the required PPE and don’t quickly respond to the positive reinforcement that other colleagues receive. Needless to say, these cases should be dealt with delicately but quickly to show zero tolerance for disrespecting the rules. Leading by example will also have a big impact. Make sure you follow all of the correct safety procedures, including donning PPE if necessary — even if you’re only on the shop floor for a few minutes.

Although you may encounter a few moans and groans along the way, if an accident were to occur, your employees will be glad you insisted on them wearing PPE.

Making Simple Changes Can Save Lives

The importance of wearing the correct PPE cannot be overstated. Protecting your workers from harm must be a priority and you should communicate this message clearly and repeatedly to create a culture of safety. Conduct a hazard analysis to ensure that you provide the correct PPE throughout all areas of your workplace, provide regular training and choose your PPE with care.

A clear policy on when to wear PPE, what to wear and why, will motivate your workers to comply with the rules and help you discipline those who choose not to. The occurrence of many workplace injuries can be reduced or completely avoided by adhering to health and safety best practices. By taking the time to make a few simple changes in your workplace, you could prevent a fatal accident.

At WISE Worksafe, we have a wealth of experience and knowledge of supplying PPE. We offer consistent stock availability, fast delivery, individual employee packs and personalised online and offline resources. Check out our extensive range of PPE and find the items you need to keep your workers safe. If you would like expert advice on providing the best PPE for your workers, get in touch today!


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