It’s a hot day out on the construction site on a hot roof, an unusually warm British summer day. Your employee isn't wearing his hard hat, or eye protection because they’re making his eyes and head sweat, but he is wearing some safety gloves. He’s no longer wearing a shirt, but he has his hi-vis vest tied in knots like an Aladdin’s waistcoat, dangling from his arms. He manages not to have an accident this shift, so he doesn’t even consider the question: why is PPE important?
Most employees and employers know on an intellectual level that PPE is vital, but on a worksite, when faced with uncomfortable conditions, many employees forego PPE for comfort, which is dangerous and can lead to workplace accidents, but how do you sell the importance of PPE to your staff?
Talk with your workers about their needs
If your workers find their safety boots uncomfortable, or their protective goggles cumbersome, ask them what they’d prefer. See if there are alternatives on the market that will provide more comfort. In the long run, buying an expensive product for the sake of comfort will be cheaper than paying out in claims if an accident occurs. Ask about their hard hats, safety goggles, coveralls, gloves and any other equipment. Talk with your workers honestly about how often they wear PPE and find out what their objections are if they do not. Having some simple discussions can improve safety all around. Even if you need to buy some new equipment for certain employees, you’ll create bonds and trust and you’ll have a safer workforce.
Provide thorough training
Depending on how often you provide training for new and existing hires, employees may not be aware of current regulations, or what’s required. Make sure you have training provided on all of the equipment needed to do the job. For example, if you work in the welding industry, provide training on safety in the shop. If your industry requires respirators or dust masks, educate your employees on the dust mask rating they need or the type of respirator that’s necessary - and make sure you perform fit tests. Once you’ve done your part as an employer, the onus of responsibility is on them.
Hold workers accountable for their safety
Once you’ve provided training, make sure your employees know that you expect them to comply with safety regulations. You can decide on the punishments for noncompliance such as imposing fines or reprimands for workers who endanger themselves. Encourage teams to discuss with each other the importance of safety, and if a team member continues to endanger him or herself, have them report it to a supervisor. You don’t want to create a micromanaged, big-brother feel, but you do want to show that you’re serious about keeping everyone safe.
Inspect sites often
Make routine site checks - or have a member of staff do these checks - to ensure that workers are wearing the correct safety equipment on site. Write regular reports. All equipment should be checked routinely for safety too, and replaced when it’s worn, broken, or out of date.
Outline your procedure
For all work sites, you should have a safety plan in place that your workers should know and be able to recite. Be sure that everyone knows your procedure, and what equipment should be worn. Also, make certain everyone knows how to report workplace accidents if they happen. Overall, let your workers know that you value safety, and PPE isn’t designed to be a punishment; it’s there to keep everyone protected - employer and employee alike.
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