Whether it’s high-visibility jackets, safety gloves or ear protection, all Personal Protective Equipment is vital in hazardous work areas on site as that crucial last line of defence.
According to government research, there were an estimated 609,000 non-fatal injuries to UK workers reported from 2016/2017. 29% of these were due to slips, trips or falls, 22% to lifting/handling, 10% to being struck by an object and 7% to falling from a height. All of these accidents can become fatal if the correct health and safety laws are not adhered to.
However, for a number of different reasons many workers are reluctant to use the correct PPE, or may even point blank refuse to wear it at all. This situation is undoubtedly a stressful one for those trying to enforce compliance, so we’ve taken the time to compile the top 5 ways in which 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 priority is highly effective in generating internal motivation to wear PPE, rather than having to always rely on disciplinary action.
There are many ways to ensure this message is portrayed on a daily working basis, so that the reason you stay on top of PPE requirements is always abundantly clear. To demonstrate that health and safety is more important than any other aspect of the job, you can regularly ask workers for their feedback on how everyone can work together to create a safer environment. This can be done through informal meetings in which you also provide some form of reward for their hard work, or even through employee surveys. It’s important to remember 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 where they should be is also a good way of showing that you’re aware of all the risks and are continually monitoring them. Seeing managers and supervisors actively making the environment safer for workers contributes towards this feeling of a shared company goal. Show workers that your efforts are genuine and they’ll feel compelled to put the same level of effort in themselves.
2. Perform a Hazard Analysis
Often the issue surrounding the refusal to wear PPE is a lack of knowledge on what exactly needs to be worn and where. There will not be the same level of requirement across an entire workplace, but individual requirements in each working area. You may have received complaints such as ‘Why should I wear my hard hat if another worker isn’t?’ and this can be addressed by carrying out a complete hazard analysis of the site, to assess precisely what is required of each worker. Part of this can be to review past accident and first aid reports to establish what problems have previously occurred and why.
Once this has been carried out, the safety procedures will need to be revised and a meeting can be carried out by a supervisor (or other authoritative voice) to communicate to all workers what specific PPE they need to wear and what hazards this protects against.
Your workers should understand that you are not enforcing PPE simply to tick a compliance box or to save money, but to improve their safety and wellbeing.
3. Carry out Regular Training
Another reason why workers may not be committed to PPE compliance is a lack of understanding of why it is necessary in the first place, as well as how to use it properly.
Using the findings from your hazard analysis, the next step is to train your employees on the newly revised safety procedure. This will involve regular training on the correct usage of PPE for their specific working area and for each task that they are required to carry out. The outcome of these sessions can then 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, and an effective way to remind them is by using real-life stories and videos of accidents or near-misses. Refer back to your accident reports and use examples of where an injury has directly resulted from a PPE issue. 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 make a similar point.
Your team need to fully understand the dangers surrounding the equipment they’re using, and that if PPE is not used at all or simply not used in the correct way, it can have devastating consequences. They should also be up to speed on how to correctly look after and store this equipment, and inspect it for wear and tear and malfunctions.
This training needs to occur regularly or every time your safety policy is updated, as well as for every new employee.
4. Choose the Right PPE
‘It’s getting in the way!’
‘It keeps falling off!’
‘It’s digging in!’
Do any of these complaints sound familiar?
There is a wide 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? Involving workers in this decision making process may in fact be the answer. After all, they’re the ones who have to use it!
Show them products that you’re considering and get them to try them out while carrying out some of 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, and the best way to get to the bottom of the issue is to discuss it with them directly and come up with the solution together.
Taking the time to listen and empathise with their issues surrounding PPE, and displaying your dedication to accommodating their preferences, will no doubt encourage them to wear it in the future.
You should also discuss your requirements and challenges with your PPE supplier, so they can advise what's available and guide you towards suitable equipment. Find products with the right fit and the necessary safety features to ensure you're providing your team with exactly what they need.
5. Enforce your Policy
Of course, all of these efforts need to be backed up with proper encouragement and enforcement by all supervisors and managers. If some workers continue to not wear their PPE with no warning from a superior then the number of offenders will only continue to grow.
For those workers that are consistently following PPE procedure, you could even set up a reward scheme. 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 also quickly, to show that there are zero exceptions to the rule. Leading by example will also have a big impact, so make sure that even if you’re only on the shopfloor for a few minutes that you follow all of the correct safety procedures including donning PPE if necessary.
Although you may encounter a few moans and groans along the way, if an accident were to occur your employees will be glad that you insisted on them wearing PPE.
Here at WISE Worksafe, we have a wealth of experience and knowledge in supplying PPE, with consistent stock availability, fast delivery, individual employee packs and personalised online and offline resources all at your disposal. If you would like expert advice on providing the best PPE for your workers, get in touch today!